Photo courtesy of KIRO-TV.
The guardian angel of Michael LaDue was working some serious overtime on Thursday, September 5th when a bolt of lightning hit the motorcyclist while he was riding in heavy rain.
LaDue, 59, was traveling on interstate I-5 near Chehalis, WA., around 9:30 a.m. when the thunderbolt made a direct hit on this motorcycle helmet.
Martin Zapalac was traveling behind the motorcyclist and stated that he heard a loud “boom” and saw LaDue’s helmet “light up”; the rider then began to slump over and somehow maneuvered his bike safely to the shoulder of the interstate.
Zapalac pulled up to help the rider, the first words from LaDue were, “Why am I stopped here?” Zapalac said, “Well, you just got hit by lightning.” LaDue opted to ride on to the next exit a half-mile away and pull over at a gas station to get out of the rain.
Upon removing his helmet, LaDue discovered that his ears had been burnt around the edges and the hair on one side of head was signed off.  Brandi Abrego, a clerk at the gas station, confirmed that LaDue was “really hot” and when he grabbed her hand “he was really, really, hot to the touch.”  Abrego also said that the helmet was cracked and partially melted.
The lining inside of LaDue’s helmet had been scorched and the exterior showed the location of where the lightning made a direct strike near the antenna.
Paramedics were called and LaDue was taken to Harborview Medical Center where he was treated and kept overnight for observation.
LaDue’s wife, Buffy, later stopped by the Chehalis Fire Department to check on her husband’s motorcycle – which also shows signs of scorch marks – and thank those that helped him. “I’m very thankful to the fire department and the EMTs; thank you,” she said.
The rider is part of The Iron Butt Association which has members that are known for riding extremely long distances. The license plate bracket on LaDue’s bike has a caption that reads “The world’s toughest motorcycle riders”; Chehalis Fire Captain Kevin Krufman, who helped treat LaDue, says he can’t argue with that.
“I think that sounds very fitting for him right now,” said Kruffman.