A couple and an infant escaped injury when their rental car was struck by lightning Saturday as they were driving on K-150 east of Marion.
Sergeant Mike Ottensmeier was in Florence when he received the dispatch at 5:50 p.m.
“It was raining so hard I couldn’t drive more than 15 miles an hour,” Ottensmeier said. “The wind and lightning was just fierce. I’ve never seen it like that around here before.”
Ottensmeier found Marion firefighters and EMTs on the scene when he arrived, with the soaking wet family in an ambulance, uninjured but shaken.
“They got out of the car right after it happened,” he said. “They had been standing out in the rainstorm.”
Eric and Teresa Schum of Gallup, New Mexico, and their baby were on the way to visit relatives in Kansas City when lightning struck the 2016 Jeep SUV they had rented.
Burn marks indicated a bolt hit a radio antenna and arched across the hood.
“You could smell the burning; it was all electrical,” Ottensmeier said. “It was horrendous.”
Eric Schum then made an unexpected disclosure.
“He said, ’Sir, there’s a brown bag in the SUV; it’s got my guns and ID,’” Ottensmeier said. “’I’m a police officer.’”
Schum is a New Mexico State Patrol captain.
Ottensmeier took the family and their luggage to the sheriff’s department, where staff pitched in to make them comfortable while they arranged for housing for the night.
While waiting for relatives to pick them up Sunday, the Schums explored town. They told Ottensmeier they were overwhelmed by the hospitality they received.
“Everybody in town was really friendly to them,” he said. “There’s one family that, because of an unfortunate incident that turned out a lot better than it could have, got to spend some time in town, got to know some people, and actually had a really good time here.”