Take electrical storms seriously. I'm amazed at the lack of common sense when people rush down to the beach to watch the lightning. In this case, this woman from New York decided to stand on top of the seawall in Monmouth Beach to watch the storm. All of her friends took cover. They all were safe. She, on the other hand, is in critical condition. Hopefully she'll recover.
There have been 7 lightning fatalities so far this year, and for every one person killed, 9 more are struck and survive, but left with varying degrees of disability. In an average year, 55 people die. Last year was the least number of fatalities on record - 26. The decrease is credited to public education efforts on lighting safety.
have any of the deaths been to people IN the water? also what is the likelihood that wearing a wetsuit jacket would help prevent it?
In 2005, three people were struck by lightning while swimming in the ocean off Tampa, Florida. I don't know if any of them died, but they were struck. Four more people were struck the same way that same year in Chiba, Japan. When lightning strikes the ocean, it spreads out along the surface of the ocean in all directions, but weakens quickly. It's estimated that a 20' radius is about all the strike will spread. A bigger factor is being the highest point around, and your head being that highest point... which is why they say put your head down and a$$ up if you're out in an open area. Something as simple as that can save your life or prevent permanent disability.
The simple solution to the problem is... don't surf during an electrical storm. Common sense...