Lightning strikes police car
January 24, 2004
WHEN the truckie behind Inspector Peter Phillips saw lightning strike the NSW police officer's brand new patrol car, he feared the worst.
All four tyres blew on the new Ford and the vehicle careered to the side of the road covered in scorch marks and with the horn and the siren blazing.
But seconds later the truck driver was amazed to see a shaken but unharmed police officer leap out of the car.
"He said, `I can't believe you're still alive, your bloody police car was lit up like a Christmas tree'," Insp Phillips said.
Insp Phillips had been driving from Gundagai to Tumut in southern NSW on Wednesday night - one of the many trips he makes to regional stations in his role as a staff officer.
He was doing about 90kmh on Gocup Road about 8pm (AEDT) when he saw a thunderstorm brewing up ahead.
"I was bit worried about hailstones because it was a brand new patrol car," he said.
As it turned out hailstones were the least of his worries.
Lightning struck the car, melted the aerial, scorched the bonnet and boot and burst all four tyres.
"The experience was like being in an electric lightbulb," he said.
A shaken Insp Phillips jumped out of the car as soon as it stopped because he thought it would catch on fire.
It was midnight before the stricken car and its shaken driver ended up back in Tumut, where his troubles continued.
"By the time I got into Tumut I needed a stiff drink and I couldn't find any place open after midnight," Insp Phillips said.
Lightning safety expert Michael Makdissi said Insp Phillips - who thought he was in the wrong place at the wrong time - was in fact in just the right place.
"The car is generally one of the safest places, but you've got to have all the windows closed," he said.
"It sort of acts as a conductor around the body, so it hits the roof and goes through the body of the vehicle and then down through the tyres into the ground so you're fairly safe."
Insp Phillips said he didn't get an electric shock and was okay now.
However he did have trouble explaining to his boss what had happened to his brand new car.