A seasoned tour guide in Brazil was killed by a freak lightning strike after he had cautioned his group about the possibility of rain. Leilson de Souza, 36, was guiding hikers along a trail in Tijuca National Park in Rio de Janeiro when he was struck by lightning on Sunday morning and died on the scene.
The chilling moment which was caught on camera shows lighting striking de Souza as the other tourists scream in shock. Karlla Araujo, 26, was recording a selfie video that captured the group standing on top of a large rock, with de Souza walking on another rock just moments before he was struck by lightning.
Bolt from the Blue
As Araujo was recording the video, a loud sound could be heard in the background as the woman screamed, and the video abruptly concluded.
Araujo told the Brazilian online news outlet G1 that de Souza had told them about the possibility of rain in the afternoon. Despite the unpredictable weather conditions, he assured them it would be fine to continue hiking.
The group, led by de Souza, who had a decade of experience in guiding tours, opted to proceed with the two-hour hike to the peak. However, rain began midway through their trek.
“He asked if we wanted to continue and everyone decided, yes.” Araújo said. “The guide said there was a chance to get out to the end and have a view in the sun.”
An air ambulance was dispatched to the site immediately but de Souza had already died by the time paramedics arrived.
The hikers were accompanied by one of Souza’s brothers, who is also undergoing training to become a tour guide.
“We were in total despair. I wanted to go down but at the same time I was afraid, because more lightning could strike,” Araújo said.
Tour Ends in Tragedy
Leilson de Souza had a passion for hiking and was pursuing studies in environmental management in college. In June, he achieved a significant feat by scaling Dedo de Deus, a 5,551-foot mountain in Serra dos Órgãos National Park, Rio de Janeiro.
His brother, Leonardo Barros, told the Brazilian outlet Globo that the family found it challenging to come to terms with the fact that de Souza had lost his life due to a lightning strike.
“At the time, we didn’t believe it. But, with the way it happened, we would never have imagined it,’ he said. ‘We imagine dying anyway, passing away anyway, but by lightning, it’s complicated.
“He was an excellent person, he did everything for everyone, he was a guy who always wanted to take special people, elderly people, everything out on the trail. His business was mountaineering, it was nature.”
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are around 40 million lightning strikes that reach the ground in the United States each year. The likelihood of being struck by lightning annually is less than one in a million, and fortunately, more than 90 percent of those struck by lightning survive.
As of 2023, National Weather Service data indicates that 13 people in the United States have lost their lives due to lightning strikes, including three in separate incidents related to boating and swimming.
Froilanis Rivas, a 34-year-old mother-of-two from Venezuela, tragically lost her life last Tuesday after being struck by lightning on a beach in the town of Barranquilla, Colombia.
Rivas was standing near the shore when she was hit, causing her to collapse onto the sand. She then suffered a massive cardiac arrest and was swiftly transported to a local hospital. Despite efforts by medical professionals to revive her, Rivas was pronounced dead.
In a separate incident in September, a Mexican woman named Elvia de Jesús and a hammock seller, Felix Andres, met a similar fate when struck by lightning on Maruata Beach in Michoacán, Mexico.
Elvia de Jesús and Felix Andres were walking together after leaving the water when they were both hit by a lightning bolt. Unfortunately, both victims were declared dead at the scene.