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WESTMINSTER - A motorcyclist was killed after he was struck by lightning while driving on U.S. 36 Wednesday afternoon.


The Westminster Fire Department says 46-year-old Gary Missi of Longmont was struck while driving between Church Ranch Boulevard and Sheridan Boulevard at around 5:15 p.m.


After Missi was hit he lost control and crashed against the center median. He ended up 150 yards from where the lightning hit the asphalt.


Rescue workers could not revive Missi and he was pronounced dead on scene.


Jim Leitelt was driving his tow truck right behind Missi when the lightning hit. "It was loud, like a bomb going off, biggest bolt of lightning I've seen in a while," said Leitelt.


The lightning left a crater in the asphalt about 18 inches long, eight inches wide, and four inches deep.


"I knew that's what happened because it killed him, it killed him that quick," said Leitelt.


CDOT has repaired the damage to the road.


U.S. 36 was shut down to one lane for about two hours because of the accident.


Robert Gift, a member of the Lightning Data Center at St. Anthony Hospital in Denver, says although many cyclists and motorcyclists believe they are safe from lightning, they are not. Gift says people on bikes and motorcycles aren't grounded.


Gift says although rubber is an excellent insulator of electricity, tires can be compromised by the millions of volts of electricity in lightning.


Automobiles are also not grounded. However, being inside a car is safer because a direct hit will most likely travel harmlessly around the occupants through the metal exterior and frame and exit to ground, Gift says.


"He was a great guy," said his sister-in-law Julie Gehring. "He really believed in family and it was the most important thing to him."

"There were times where he would run into somebody in trouble and go out of his way to help them, even putting himself at risk," she said.


His family has set up a memorial fund to help his wife and family. He is survived by his wife, Mary, 25-year-old daughter, Jamie, and 19-year-old son, Dustin.


Contributions can be sent to the Gary Missi Memorial Fund at any 1st Bank location.


"Gary seemed to be in odd places at odd times. Most of his life was that way. And it's like, wow, to go that way, being struck by lightning, it just doesn't happen to people," said Gehring.


"We as a family feel that it was just his time to go. God took him and he's in a better place now," she said.



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My late father in law was struck by lightening twice , about ten years apart. He was hospitalized the first time but survived with no long term consequence. The second time he had some burns stripes on his back. He also stormed the beach at Normandy and survived that as well.


This happened to a biker over near Norfolk , Va. last year. I remembered , at the time , making a mental note to not underestimate a T storm.

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