NC motorcycle rider struck and killed by lightning is identified by Florida troopers

A motorcycle rider from Charlotte was killed Sunday when he was struck by lightning and then crashed on a highway near Orlando, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

The power of the lightning strike caused the 45-year-old man’s helmet to crack and burn, according to a tweet from the Highway Patrol.

The motorcycle rider died after crashing on Interstate 95 in Volusia County, the Highway Patrol said. That is about 50 miles from Orlando.

He was identified by troopers Monday afternoon as Benjamin Austin Lee, 45, reported TV station WFTV. He is from Charlotte, reported the Associated Press.

After the North Carolina man was struck in the head by lightning, his motorcycle ran off I-95 and overturned, and he was thrown “some distance,” according to WSOC.

The rider was pronounced dead at the scene just after 2 p.m., the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported. Investigators have not said whether it was the lightning that killed the rider or the crash.

An off-duty Virginia state trooper witnessed the lightning strike that shattered the helmet and the crash, per WFTV.

Investigators said burn marks on the helmet helped confirm reports that lightning struck the rider before the crash, reported the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

It is the nation’s second lightning fatality this year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

There have been 10 motorcycle-related lightning deaths across the nation since 2006, said John Jensenius, a lightning expert with NOAA. In some of those cases, the rider had pulled off the road and was standing near the bike when killed, he said.

Among those 10 deaths, NOAA says, was one at the entrance to North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell State Park in July 2016, when Scott Pasour of Gaston County pulled over to put on rain gear and was struck by lightning, the Gaston Gazette reported at the time.

Pasour was a lay minister at Venture Church and owner of Pasour Auto Repair, the Gazette reported.

Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State focused on breaking news, public safety and trending news. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.