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Coast Guard rescues 7 people after lightning strikes boat off Clearwater

Helicopter aircrew had to hoist the five women and two men off the boat to safety.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The U.S. Coast Guard rescued seven people on a boat off Clearwater after a lightning strike.

On Saturday, a 39-foot vessel was struck by lightning 100 miles offshore of Clearwater, according to a news release. The Coast Guard District Seven command center received an alert from the boat and was able to contact the owner's wife to figure out where they were located.

“Flat sea and beautiful skies turned to living hell," said Tonya Albritton, one of the passengers on the boat.

Albritton said after the lightning strike, everyone onboard put on their life jackets and tried to keep each other calm. 

“God was just like, 'okay, you guys made it,'" she said. 

After finding the people, the helicopter aircrew had to hoist the five women and two men off the boat.

All seven of the boaters were taken to the air station unharmed. 

Albritton said they are extremely thankful for the crew members who rescued them. 

“We all started crying and bawling our eyes out," she said. 

"Lightning storms are routinely encountered in the Florida maritime environment and can pose a significant hazard to boaters," Coast Guard pilot Lt. David McKinley said in a statement. "Fortunately, the boaters, in this case, were well prepared with all necessary safety equipment including an EPIRB, flares and a marine VHF radio to ensure a quick and efficient rescue."

The boat owner was able to get the boat towed back to land but said it was totaled. 

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect the actual location of the boat offshore. It was 100 miles, not feet.

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