Witness relives moment lightning bolt killed pal; Two walkers lost lives on same day in separate Beacons strikes, inquest told.
AWALKER who saw his friend die in a lightning strike on the same day that a second man was killed nearby has relived the moment their adventure holiday ended in tragedy.
Youth worker Jeremy Prescott and retired teacher Robin Meakings were in the Brecon Beacons this summer on adjacent peaks when they were killed.
Their inquests at Brecon Coroner's Court heard that weather conditions that day had started out fine but had taken a sudden turn for the worse.
Mr Prescott, from Telford in Shropshire, was hit by a bolt while manning a checkpoint on Corn Ddu mountain as part of a Duke of Edinburgh Awards activ-A ity.
Witnesses said the force of the W strike was such that it threw the 51-year-old into the air and melted his shirt.
Moments later Surrey-based Mr Meakings, 59, was also struck by lightning as he prepared to descend the 2,580ft-high peak Cribyn.
William Belcher, 46, who had W been on an adventure holiday with Mr Meakings and friend Nicholas Earl described what happened.
He said: "Robin was adjusting his walking poles, which were turn to page 5
from page 1 down by his side - and Nic was helping. All of a sudden there was this bright white flash and an intensely loud, deafening whipcrack sound. I could then smell something like burnt leather or bacon. Nic went flying forwards while Robin was motionless on his back. I was panicking, shouting at both of them 'wake up, wake up'.
"the force of the strike had blown his jacket open and there was discolouration of his chest. At that moment I knew he had gone."
Coroner Andrew Barkley was told the deaths occurred on July 5 this year - and could not have been predicted as the weather changed for the worse without warning.
There are around 325,000 lightning ground strikes in the UK every year but the number of people struck is as low as 50 to 100 - with only 10 at most proving fatal.
Both Mr Meakings and Mr Prescott were described as fit and healthy with plenty of experience of hill walking and trekking.
Close friend Mr Belcher said Mr Meakings had been in the Army for 20 years before retraining as a teacher in Camberley.
Mr Belcher said there had been talk of going shopping in Brecon but the men decided against it as they had not scaled Cribyn before.
He said they had checked the weather forecast regularly since arriving in South Wales on July 2 but the predicted thundery showers had failed to materialise. "On the day we didn't have any specific discussions about the weather, but we had done this sort of thing millions of times before so we were feeling pretty confident," he said.
Mr Belcher said the conditions were unremarkable to begin with - some spitting rain and a patch of low cloud. But around 15 minutes later, the mood and the weather changed dramatically.
Mr Meakings, who was holding his walking poleby his side when struck by lightning , was motionless as he fell backwards while Mr Earl was blown offhis feet and lay paralysed with pain.
Mr Earl told the inquest in a statement: "I have never felt pain like it before. It was like my body inside and out was on fire. I couldn't move ... I couldn't speak."
Even though Mr Earl was paralysed on one side of his body, he helped Mr Belcher as they tried to save their friend. The pair waited for a helicopter to arrive but by then had realised their friend was dead.
"I put my hand on Nic's shoulder and said 'I think we lost Robin'," added Mr Belcher.
Around 1.10pm, a rescue helicopter arrived and the chest compressions continued on board while pilots flew to the nearby Corn Ddu peak where efforts to save Telford and Wrekin Council worker Mr Prescott were being carried out.
His colleague Gaynor Hogarth said they were on their way up the 873m mountain ready to meet a group of youngsters on a Duke of Edinburgh activity.
"He was taking the last step up to the top when the lightning struck," said Mrs Hogarth. "I saw a bright flash like someone had turned on a fluorescent light behind Jez. There was no rumble or thunder beforehand - moments before or on the way up. If I had seen any lightning before we had left there would be no way we would have gone up there. At first I didn't think the lightning had struck Jez ... and when he started to fall forward I thought he was joking. But he just dropped to the ground - he didn't even put his arms out."
Mrs Hogarth was then joined by three marine cadets who had been on a training exercise with the four carrying out CPR for an hour before a rescue helicopter was able to land.
The first emergency crews at both scenes were the Brecon Mountain Rescue Team who had been in the area on a training exercise.
The inquest heard everything possible had been done to save them. Consultant pathologist Dr Jason Shannon said post-mortems revealed both men died as a result of electrocution.
Mr Barkley recorded a narrative verdict, saying the deaths came about after being struck by lightning.
"There was nothing to suggest that the trips were ill advised or that any human error was involved," he added. "These deaths were as a result of exceptional circumstances which could not have been predicted or controlled. The fact that two men not in close proximity to one another died makes this case all the more remarkable but that will be of little comfort for the families and friends of Mr Meakings and Mr Prescott."