August 9, 2012 reported at Spirit Daily.com from citizensvoice.com. Salem twp. - The deafening bang, bright flash and jarring jolt came without warning for Travis Rauch. Dazed and frozen in place, he saw sparks fly off his right hand. An overwhelming force dropped him to the rain-soaked ground. The 35-year-old blacked out. He was one of 10 lightning-strike victims Sunday at Pocono Raceway in Monroe County. "When they say you can see your life flash before your eyes, you really can," Rauch recalled Wednesday as he described the harrowing experience and tragic ending to the Pennsylvania 400 NASCAR race. "I saw everything I did in my life - good and bad." The federal prison guard and Salem Township volunteer firefighter - struck by lightning while stopping a fellow race fan's canopy from blowing away - said he was unaware severe weather was in the area. He said he never heard any warnings while at the track and didn't see or hear any thunder or lightning in the area until the strike.
"Common sense, obviously, tells you to stay in the car. And I would have if I had known thunder and lightning was coming," Rauch said. "There wasn't one bolt of lighting or one sound of thunder the whole time." The married father of two boys, 7 and 1, said he was about 15 feet away from the 41-year-old Moosic man who was fatally struck by the lightning strike. He knows he's lucky to be alive. Rauch suffered a temporary blackout and minor burns to his right hand that required a night's stay in the hospital. "That was definitely the craziest day of my life," Rauch said.
Rauch said he retreated to his friend's car when it became clear the race was either going to be delayed or shortened because of heavy rain. He said they heard no severe weather warnings issued at the track prior to the storm, but it's possible they didn't hear any because the roar of the racecars was so loud. While in his friend's car, they looked at the weather radar and it resembled the storm band from earlier in the day that delayed the race two hours, he said. "It was raining, but there was no thunder and no lightning," Rauch said. "There was no indication to me that it was going to be anything other than the first thing - a rainstorm."
Rauch then saw that a fellow tailgater's canopy about to blow away. He made the split second decision that nearly cost him his life: He got out of the car to help. "All I remember is I grabbed a hold of their canopy to help them out and I heard the loudest bang I have ever heard in my entire life and out of the corner of my eye, you could just see pure white. It was pure, pure white," Rauch recalled. "That's when I got electrocuted. When it shocked me, I saw sparks come off the side of my hand. When that happened, I started falling backwards and couldn't catch myself. I was frozen." Rauch then fell to the ground and blacked out.
It might have been only 30 seconds, but flashbulb images of his life ran through his mind - his wedding day, the births of his children and even mischievous antics from his youth. When he came to, a man he never met was standing over him. "A gentleman, who I'd love to find out who he was, he came over to me and said, 'Are you alright?' " Rauch said. "I said, 'Yea, I feel fine.' He helped me up and I went back to my buddy's car."Rauch's friend, Paul Kile, a Salem Township emergency medical technician, was about to rush to help other victims when he discovered Rauch was struck. Dazed and in shock, Rauch displayed what his friend described as a "boxer stare."
"He said my mouth was wide open, my eyes were wide open," Rauch recalled. "I wasn't responding to anything he said." Kile performed a series of sternum rubs, which brought Rauch back to full consciousness, Rauch said. Kile's quick actions might have saved his life, he said. "When I realized I had full function of my body, the first thing I thought of was my kids and my wife," he said. "It gives you a new perspective on life when everything is said and done." Rauch said he was treated at Pocono Raceway's trauma unit, where he learned multiple people were struck, one fatally. He was then transferred to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township, where he remained until 3 p.m. Monday. "You take it for granted what lightning can do to you," Rauch said. "Have I learned anything? Absolutely. When it starts to rain, and I'm outside, I'm going inside." As for the next Pocono race, he said he'll be there - rooting on his favorite drivers, Mark Martin and Brad Keselowski. "I'll be going back next year," Rauch said.