SHOCK OF HIS LIFE
BY MARY MANN
BALLINA lifesaver Brett Lewis cradled the phone between his ear and shoulder, scribbling notes on a pad of paper during Monday afternoon's thunderstorm.
Bang! A huge flash of light came out of the phone and Brett flew across the room, hitting his head as he landed on the floor.
He lay unconscious for about five minutes, and when he woke up he did not know where he was.
"I just swore," Brett told The Northern Star. "I felt all tense, it was a real shock. I thought, 'No, this isn't happening'."
The communications officer with Surf Life Saving NSW had been discussing the storm with his duty officer on the emergency phone in the Far North Coast Surf Life Saving communications centre at Lighthouse Beach about 3.50pm on Monday.
While he was on the phone lightning struck nearby, sending a shock through the phone.
Northern NSW lifeguard co-ordinator Steven Leahy had only a short time earlier left the centre to work from home, leaving Brett by himself.
Local beaches had already been closed because of the rough conditions caused by the storm."I got a call from the duty officer who said he'd been talking to Brett and had heard a loud bang, and then Brett screamed and the phone had gone silent," Mr Leahy said.
"He'd tried calling on the%radio, but there wasn't any response so he was worried.
"I was expecting the worst and hoping for the best." Mr Leahy, who lives only minutes from the communications centre, rushed to see if Brett was OK.
When he got there he found Brett walking around in a daze, complaining of pain in his left ear.
"He was dizzy and had a decreased level of consciousness. I was really concerned," Mr Leahy said. "He had an irregular heartbeat and was really shaken."
Mr Leahy applied first-aid and oxygen. Brett was then taken by ambulance to Ballina District Hospital, where he was monitored for about four hours%before going home.
"I'm really grateful to Steve and how he helped me," Brett said.
"I instantly relaxed when I saw him come in. I knew I was in good hands."
When Brett spoke to The Northern Star he still had some pain and discomfort in his joints and muscles, and his speech was slightly slurred.
"My mind is just ticking over so fast. I didn't sleep at all last night," he said.
"But I went for a swim this morning just to make sure everything is still working OK, and it's all good."