A woman in California was killed by a lightning strike this week while walking a trail during a thunderstorm.
Antonio Mendoza Chavez, 52, had reportedly taken her two dogs for an early morning walk on Wednesday morning on one of the trails near her Pico Rivera home, located about 11 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.
At around 8.50am, authorities say police and paramedics were called to a path near the San Gabriel River, about a 20-minute drive from Chavez’s home, where they found the bodies of the 52-year-old and her pets, Chubby and Luna, deceased from an apparent lightning strike.
“We don’t see this kind of death resulting from lightning. It’s very rare here in this area,” said Detective Morgan Arteaga with the Los Angeles Sheriff Department in an interview with ABC 7 News shortly after the deadly incident.
Even though thunderstorms were moving through Southern California on Wednesday morning, surveillance footage from a Nest camera installed by Chavez’s landlord showed the 52-year-old leaving the house with her two dogs at around 7.30am for a trail walk.
“I called her and I texted her and she didn’t answer, and the message was not delivered to the cell phone,” said Gloria Colocho in an interview with ABC 7. “I checked my camera … she left around 7:30 a.m. and I see her with her two dogs, and she left the house, and she hasn’t come back at all.”
Chavez reportedly walked the trail, surrounded by trees and metal fences, every morning but the routine became deadly when she found herself in a flat open area in the middle of a thunderstorm that caught her by surprise.
“We should all be cautious with this activity in the area,” City Manager Steve Carmona said in a statement after the incident. “We want everybody to be careful. There’s a lot of instability in the area. Just be careful and do your best to stay indoors at this time.”
Deaths by lightning in the US are rare, with Chavez’s marking the first incidence of it in the US this year and ninth fatality in California since 2006.
On Wednesday night, the National Weather Service’s Los Angeles branch warned residents that more heavy downpours were expected in the San Gabriel Valley and that there was a possibility of “dangerous lightning”.