BETHESDA, MD — Lawyer N. Graves Thomas stood in a boat during a thunderstorm on Monday, raised his hands and proclaimed heavenward, "Here I am." Moments later a lightning bolt struck him dead, witnesses said.

Authorities said they had no explanation for the maverick lawyer's behavior, but friends and colleagues said his actions before his death were typical of his offbeat nature.

Moments later a lightning bolt struck him dead.

The lightning bolt struck Thomas in the head aboard his new ski boat on Lake Bistineau. Death apparently was instantaneous, as there was no exit point for the lightning, said Bossier Parish sheriff's spokesman Scott Hodges.

Witnesses said Thomas, 40, stood in the back of the boat, raised his hands toward the sky and said, "Here I am." The lightning bolt struck his head almost momentarily.


A week later, witnesses to Thomas' mortification claimed that his meaning was misunderstood, and that the lawyer was not directing a challenge to God, but instead merely calling to his girlfriend.

As a former state prosecutor and assistant U.S. attorney, Thomas' peers described him as a firebrand and a maverick and a strong advocate for his often notorious clients — including police killers, reputed crime figures, accused white collar criminals and drug smugglers. At the time of his death, Thomas was representing a Lake Bistineau man accused of recklessness in a boating accident that month that killed three people on the lake.