A Pacific Grove father, Christopher Lovera, 51, chose Jennie Lake in Giant Sequoia National Monument to introduce his two children, Aidan, 12, and Nadia, 9, to the joys of backpacking. Jennie Lake, at 9,300 feet is a moderate 12-mile out and back hike located between Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.
Lovera figured Jennie Lake was a scenic weekend destination that they would always remember as their first backing trip together. What he didn’t figure was that some serious weather would move into the Jennie Lake basin shortly after their arrival on Saturday, Sept. 2.
Caught in a heavy downpour, the family of three sought shelter by huddling under a tall tree at the lakeshore. Chris was sitting on the ground; the children were on his lap.
Within a few minutes, a lightning bolt scored a direct hit on the top of the tree under which they were crouched. A massive charge of energy traveled down the tree and exited near the ground with a blinding flash and a terrifying explosion sending fragments of lightning into all three with each of the victims being jolted in different directions.
The sudden surge of energy knocked the trio unconscious and each was awakened at a different time with the father being out the longest. When son Aidan saw his father bloodied and motionless, he immediately thought his dad was dead.
It was the family’s good fortune that Jennie Lake was occupied by lots of Labor Day weekend campers, a host of whom ran to the family’s aid. One of the group was an off-duty firefighter, and somebody else had an emergency satellite device that was used to summon help.
Chris Lovera suffered first and second-degree burns on his back, arm pit, and down his arm. His skin was black and his clothes were burned off.
Aidan’s injuries were the most severe, Lovera said. His eardrum was shattered, his legs were burned, and he had a head wound from the top of his skull to the base of his jaw.
Nadia suffered burns on her legs and arms. All three were in shock and suffering from paralysis at the scene. It wasn’t too long and the patients were loaded in a CHP helicopter and airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
Lovera, a senior research technician at Monterey Bay Aquarium, said he and his children would not have survived their ordeal without the other Jennie Lake campers who came to the rescue.
“I’m grateful, of course, that my children and I are alive,” Lovera told the Monterey Herald. “Really, what I came away with is just gratitude I have for this set of people who were so selfless and willing to go out in the storm — it was still lightning and raining…”
A YouTube video of the lightning strike may be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrVev1l4Tbg&pbjreload=10