YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Los Angeles

Lightning Bolt Brings Quick Fame

August 01, 2003|Joy L. Woodson | Times Staff Writer

In his downtown Long Beach neighborhood, 12-year-old Juan Duarte is something of a celebrity this week. Television crews seek him out, and neighbors come over to take a peek at a little scar on his back.

Juan was struck by lightning Monday night while standing outside his home on Fifth Street. He suffered only a minor wound -- a fact that prompted his mother to call him her "miracle child" and the community to rally around him.

When he went to play football at the park, Juan said, other kids "were saying, 'We saw you on TV. Were you the one that got struck by lightning? Are you OK? Can we see your scar?' They thought I was famous."

Juan was in the middle of his summer vacation, watching a wrestling match on television, when he got curious about the thunderstorm Monday night. He ran outside barefoot and shirtless to take a look.

Then he felt the jolt. There was no dizziness or pain, he said. "It felt like there was something trying to push me down."

His mother, Rosalva Saavedra, rushed outside, thinking he had been shot by someone from a white car she had seen driving by.

She feared he worst: "Is he OK? Is he going to die?"

Juan wobbled and blood trickled down his back. His back eventually swelled up.

"Thank God he's still with me right now," his mother said.

After spending three hours at the hospital, he got back home at 2 a.m. Tuesday and fell asleep.

Less than four hours later, he was shaken awake by his 13-year-old sister, Sandra Sanchez. News media representatives had been camping out since before sunrise, she said. All wanting to talk to her brother.

Relieved that he wasn't hurt, she jokingly complained that he was getting all the attention, even though it was her special day.

"I can be a celebrity too," she said. "It's my birthday."

Even the local firefighters came by to say hello.

The neighborhood kids point his house out to passersby. Friends and relatives drop by to chat about the incident.

"I heard it on Tuesday," said 12-year-old Hector Lopez. "My dad told me he was on TV and I flipped the channel."

"It was pretty cool, but I thought it would've left a bigger scar -- not like a little dot," he said. "I thought it'd be a way serious injury."

What began as thumb-sized red scar is now about the width of a chopstick.

Breaking from his 15 minutes of fame, Juan turned on the TV to watch the "Rookie," a movie he had already seen. His sister jumped up to take a shower. His friend, Hector, changed the subject, to Kobe Bryant's case.

Juan is ready to get back to normal.

On Saturday, the family plans a birthday dinner for Juan, who turned 12 on Thursday, to celebrate his good fortune.

"He's the miracle child," Saavedra said, "because not too many people survive lightning strikes."

Los Angeles Times Articles