Butler County lightning strike survivor shares story to bring awareness to others

BUTLER COUNTY, Pa. — We are entering the warm, muggy season here in western Pennsylvania. June, July and August are prime time for sudden thunderstorms and dangerous lightning.

Every year, more than 270 people are struck by lightning. Many survive, but they risk serious, lasting health effects.

Channel 11′s Adis Juklo spent time with a Butler County man who survived against all odds.

Dave Convery hopes his story brings awareness to others who spend time outdoors during the peak thunderstorm season.

Convery was a 25-year-old Waynesburg University student leading others on a hike in the North Carolina mountains when a storm came out of nowhere.

“I tied real tight to a rock. I was up on a boulder. I could see over the edge a little bit and lightning was crashing all around me,” Convery said.

Next- an outdoorsman’s worst nightmare.

“Felt like somebody hit me with a sledgehammer. Right in the back of the head. Stiffened up like a board. They tell me my eyes rolled back in my head, and I had smoke coming from my head and smoke coming from my ankles,” Convery said.

A bolt of lightning went through Convery’s helmet, down his spine and out his ankle, blowing an exit hole in his sock.

Rescuers rushed him to the hospital.

When Convery came to, he had third-degree burns and some paralysis.

“What it taught me is that bad things can happen to good people,” he said.

Convery didn’t let the accident define him. He worked hard to regain his mobility, raised a family and spent decades as a machinist in a Butler steel mill.

He also shares his story as a cautionary tale, warning others to not take safety for granted.

“I was 25 and I didn’t think anything could ever happen to me,” he said. “What I did was I stood over 6 feet tall, helmet on my head, metal in it, and metal around my neck, standing in the thunderstorm...and I was just the tallest thing around.”

Now 66, Convery says that as he ages, his lightning injury is catching up with him. He uses wheels for mobility, but he’s picked up a new outdoor sport, road racing with his handcycle.

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