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Tractor driver survives lightning strike

PUBLISHED: 11:27 15 July 2009 | UPDATED: 10:50 06 July 2010

Simon Jennings was struck by lightning whilst driving his tractor

Simon Jennings was struck by lightning whilst driving his tractor

Tractor driver Simon Jennings is more than one in a million. He is the 25 million to one survivor of a lightning strike on his massive tractor in a North Norfolk pea field.

Tractor driver Simon Jennings is more than one in a million. He is the 25 million to one survivor of a lightning strike on his massive tractor in a North Norfolk pea field.

His top-of-the-range Fendt 936 tractor took the brunt of a lightning bolt containing an estimated one billion volts but he walked away with ringing in his ears.

The electrical system of the £100,000 tractor was trashed by lightning while he was pulling a heavy set of Terra discs and cultivator at Hindolveston, near Fakenham.

Mr Jennings was driving his 360hp tractor near the former station on the last circuit burying pea trash when it started to rain about 4.50pm and the sky went black.

“All of a sudden, there was this almighty flash, a few sparks and a horrendous bang. It was a big flash of lightning and a big boom and that was that.

“The tractor stopped, the cab filled with smoke but I got the rear window undone and grabbed the fire extinguisher ready to fight the fire. But the cab cleared and the smoke went and that was that. It made my ears ring for a couple of days.

“The tractor was dead, no life whatsoever but fortunately I'm alive to tell the story,” said Mr Jennings, 46, who has been married to Linda for 24 years. They have two daughters and live at Foulsham, near Dereham.

“At the end of the day, it was an Act of God. It was not as though I was doing anything silly, it just happened. I had an implement in the ground and it went through the tractor and must have earthed out.

“I just took it with a pinch of salt, apart from my ears, which 'hissed' for two days. It didn't phase me at all. I thought, I'm still here, it can't be bad. I just thought that was a bit of luck.

Mr Jennings, who has worked for Mr Harrold for 30 years, said: “They told me: as long as you're okay, the tractor is nothing. My governor and Mr Lockhart, they're salt of the earth people.”

Mr Harrold, who won Britain's malting barley championship in 1990, farms at Stanhoe and in north Norfolk around Melton Constable and Edgefield, near Holt.

It is possible that the lightning might have struck the CB aerial, said Mr Jennings. With micro-circuits powered by 5v, a lightning surge caused severe damage.

Mr Harrold's farm manager, Bruce Lockhart, said: “It was a one in 25 million, he told me. It would have hit the tractor and gone straight out but it there hadn't been anything on the back, it could have done a lot more damage.”

Steve Kittle, managing director of Randell NFM, which is based at Attleborough, said that the tractor's ignition circuit has been repaired but the other electrical control circuits were being replaced. “I've never heard of a tractor taking a lightning strike before,” he added.

Duncan Russell, of the Peterborough-based Agricultural Engineers' Association, had not heard of such a strike on a tractor before.

“Everyone says to me, you'd better do the lottery this week,” said Mr Jennings.

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