Lightning strikes Jesus statue

2010-06-15 19:14
Flames shoot up from the "King of King's" statue of Jesus Christ standing outside of Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio. (Tiffani West-May, AP Photo/The Dayton Daily News)

Flames shoot up from the "King of King's" statue of Jesus Christ standing outside of Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio. (Tiffani West-May, AP Photo/The Dayton Daily News) (Tiffani West-May)

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Monroe - A six-storey-tall statue of Jesus Christ with his arms raised along a highway was struck by lightning in a thunderstorm on Monday night and burned to the ground, police said.

The "King of Kings" statue, one of southwest Ohio's most familiar landmarks, had stood since 2004 at the evangelical Solid Rock Church along Interstate 75 in Monroe, just north of Cincinnati.

The sculpture, which is nearly 19m tall and 12m wide at the base, showed Jesus from the torso up and was nicknamed "Touchdown Jesus" because of the way the arms were raised, similar to a referee signalling a touchdown in a game of football.

It was made of plastic foam and fibreglass over a steel frame, which is all that remained early on Tuesday.

The fire spread from the statue to an adjacent amphitheatre but was confined to the attic area, and no one was injured, police Chief Mark Neu said.

Travellers on Interstate 75 were often startled to come upon the huge statue by the roadside, but many said America needs more symbols like it. So many people stopped at the church campus that church officials had to build a walkway to accommodate them.

The 4 000-member, non-denominational church was founded by former horse trader Lawrence Bishop and his wife. Bishop said in 2004 he was trying to help people, not impress them, with the statue. He said his wife proposed the Jesus figure as a beacon of hope and salvation and they spent about $250 000 to finance it.

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