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Freaky Friday: Lightning bolt sinks Milwaukee boat on Friday the 13th

Posted at 10:25 AM, Oct 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-15 20:03:04-04

MILWAUKEE — If you carry a lucky rabbit's foot, steer clear of ladders and black cats, this superstitious story may just play into your premonitions.

After a full moon on Friday, Sept.13th all you could see at the South Shore Mooring Field were boats, except for one mast sticking up above the water.

"It is a very strange situation," Jeff Konkel told TODAY'S TMJ4 Jesse Ritka. He is not typically a superstitious man, but after an intense lightning storm last month, he may just start knocking on wood.

Just after midnight on Friday the 13th, an electrical storm moved through Milwaukee. One of those lightning bolts struck the sailboat Konkel has had for 25 years.

"Had 3 kids and it was great, the kids could come out, had someplace to go, hang out with their father and do fun things and bring their friends," he said.

The electricity from the bolt traveled down the antenna and blew out the thru hull at the bottom of the boat. It didn't break any mirrors but under the full moon that freaky Friday flash of lightning sunk Konkel's sailboat,

"I had it looking really good and then to see it go down this way is just heartbreak," he said.

With his boat under 15 feet of water, Konkel called Tow Boats U.S. who typically provide towing services.

"There's not a heck of a lot that really surprises us anymore," Port Captain with Tow Boat US, Gert Grohmann said.

That's especially since boats have better odds of being struck by lightning. One in 1,000 are struck according to Tow Boats U.S.

Though a boat sinking by bolt is out of the ordinary, Grohmann said, "Sunken boat is definitely more rare and it takes a lot more expertise to be able to do it."

A certified diver put on a dry suit, jumped in the water and attached lift bags to raise the boat.

"It was kind of scary," said Konkel. "They went out there and they dove. They had to figure out where to hang their air bags."

"If you put the bags in the wrong place, it can be really dangerous," Grohmann said.

Thankfully bad luck didn't come in threes. The sunken sailboat was lifted successfully out of the South Shore waters, towed to the piers and pumped out, leaving quite the mess,

"There's quite a bit of silt and sand and stuff inside," Grohmann said.

And while Konkel waits on if his boat can be salvaged or replaced, he is left with memories and a not-so-tall tale to tell.

"Those were the fun times out there. Never thought lightning would have came through. The stars lined up in the wrong manner I guess."

If you have friggatriskaidekaphobia, or fear of Friday the 13th, the next one is in December, but this time the moon will be 97% full. Fingers crossed.