JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Sunshine State leads the nation is lightning strikes. Since 2007, lightning has taken more than 50 lives in Florida. Fortunately for one man, his friend acted swiftly enough to save his life.
John Zilahy says it happened 27 years ago. The lightning struck made a direct hit, stopping his heart.
"It was such a crazy experience, it was a beautiful day like today," Zilahy said. "All of a sudden, boom!"
"We were out fishing, about a mile off shore at Ponte Vedra, and one of those afternoon storms rolled in and had my name on it."
It was a summer day in 1990. He says he was finishing up college at FSCJ at the time. He recalls there was just one cloud in the sky, as if the bolt "came out of nowhere."
"It hit my fishing pole and went through me and knocked me out of my shoes and killed me," he said. "I had to learn how to walk, talk, all of that stuff all over again."
He says the bolt caused his brain to shortcircuit. He has issues with short-term memory today. His friend who was with him at the time of the strike, Robert Houghten, has helped fill in the blanks.
He says when he was hit, he was blasted out of his shoes and into the water. Houghten was in nursing school at the time and performed CPR immediately.
"He gave me resuscitation then pulled it straight up to the Ponte Vedra Club where the lifeguards took care of me there," he said.
Zilahy is still recovering today, but he hasn’t given up fishing.
His story serves as a reminder to be cautious with mother nature.
He says he's happy to share his story and let the world know he isn’t afraid of getting back out on the water and living his life.
"It happened once, I don't think it will happen again, hopefully!" he said.
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