Richard Butler wanted his girlfriend to think they were just taking a scenic hike in the North Carolina mountains, but he had a secret plan. When they got to the top, he was going to pull out a ring and ask her to be his bride. Then lightning struck – three times.
The last strike on Max Patch Bald hit the 30-year-old and his girlfriend, Bethany Lott, 25, killing her and giving him third-degree burns.
"I was spun 180 degrees and thrown several feet back," he told the Asheville Citizen-Times. "My legs turned to Jello, my shoes were smoking and the bottom of my feet felt like they were on fire.
"She [Bethany] didn't say anything, and I turned around and she was laying a few feet away, and I crawled to her," said Mr Butler, from Knoxville, Tennessee. "I did CPR for probably 15 minutes and the whole time was trying her cell phone, but I couldn't get anything out."
His mother, Janet Delaney, said Miss Lott loved the mountains. "She hiked thousands of miles," Mrs Delaney said. "Her last words were, 'Look at how beautiful it is.'"
She said that she and her son were now mourning instead of celebrating the joy of the engagement.
The lightning strike happened on Friday. They began their hike in heavy rain, which receded as the pair walked toward the peak. But then the bad weather returned.
Unable to carry his would-be fiancée down the hill after the strike, Mr Butler drove his truck to the first home he found. A father and his son, who was home on leave from the Navy, jumped in and raced back to the scene.
"They stood on the top of the hill doing what they could for probably 20 minutes until the rescuers got there," Mr Butler said. When the rescuers did arrive, they tried to resuscitate Miss Lott, but to no avail.