The American state of Florida experiences about 1.5 million lightning strikes each year, according to the National Weather Service, and has the nation’s highest rate of casualties from lightning strikes. In 2004, Florida’s combined rate of deaths and casualties from lightning strikes was 2,117, according to the National Weather Service.
On 4 July 2009, a Fourth of July celebration in Lakeland, Florida, about 48 km (30 miles) east of Tampa, was tragically interrupted when Benjamin Gonzalez, a 30 year old man, was hit and killed by a lighting bolt which struck the outdoor festivities at about 4:40 pm. Eighteen others were hospitalized for their injuries in Lakeland, Plant City and Bartow. Nine were treated for non-serious injuries on the scene.
Witnesses reported that clouds had been building up in Florida, but, since this is a common weather pattern in the region, no one was concerned. Local sheriff, Grady Judd, called the lightning strike “very sad,” and an “act of God.”