The Italian Almanac


Italian News - November 30

A holidaymaker was killed by a bolt of lightning from an almost clear blue sky after he had climbed out of a swimming pool, an inquest was told yesterday. Michael Haffenden, 49, died instantly when he was struck as he relaxed with his family at a medieval castle near Siena, in Tuscany. His widow, Fenella, 42, told the hearing that the lightning followed a couple of drops of rain. It had been so unexpected that her first thought was that a bomb had gone off.

The lighting bolt also injured a family friend, set fire to a thatched summer house and damaged Mrs Haffenden’s hearing aids. Although Mr Haffenden, a recruitment consultant, died in Italy, the inquest took place in Exeter, near his £1.3 million home. Richard Van Oppen, the deputy Devon coroner, returned a verdict of accidental death, describing it as one of the most bizarre deaths that he had dealt with.

“The weather was good,” he said. “The sky was clear except for a rogue cloud. A distant clap of thunder was heard and a few raindrops fell. Suddenly and without warning there was a flash of lightning which struck Michael. My most deep sympathies go to the families and friends. This is a tragic and most bizarre and extraordinary event. I have never heard anything like it before.”

The couple were renting the castle, at Gaiole, from the Italian musician Gabin Dabire and his wife, Elena Trissini Dal Vello D’Oro. With them were their three children, Rupert, 10, Hector, 8, and Cordelia, 3, and other friends. They had been at the castle for two days in July, during a heatwave across Italy, in which temperatures reached 35C (95F).