Familiar Ohio landmark reduced to blackened steel skeleton after being struck by lightning
The King of Kings statue at the Solid Rock church in Monroe, Ohio, before and during the fire that destroyed it. Photograph: Nick Graham/AP and Tiffani West-May/AP
A six-storey statue of Jesus Christ in a midwestern US city was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, leaving only a blackened steel skeleton and pieces of foam that were scooped up by curious onlookers yesterday.
The King of Kings statue, one of south-west Ohio's most familiar landmarks, had stood since 2004 at the evangelical Solid Rock church along the Interstate 75 highway in Monroe, just north of Cincinnati.
The lightning strike set the statue ablaze around 11.15 pm on Monday night, Monroe police said.
The sculpture, about 19 metres (62 feet) tall and 12 metres wide at the base, showed the figure of 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 American football. It was made of plastic foam and fibreglass over a steel frame, which was all that remained yesterday.
The fire spread from the statue to an adjacent amphitheatre but was confined to the attic, and no one was injured, police chief Mark Neu said.
Damage from the fire was estimated at $700,000 (£474,000): $300,000 for the statue alone and $400,000 for the amphitheatre, fire station officer Richard Mascarella said.
Some people were scooping up pieces of the statue's foam from the nearby pond to take home with them, said Darlene Bishop, a church co-pastor. "This meant a lot to a lot of people," she said.
Bishop said the statue would be rebuilt. "It will be back, but this time we are going to try for something fireproof."
There must be someone with some good taste up there striking lightnings: the statue was outrageously ugly and, with its outstretched arms, it looked like it was invoking its own annihilation by lightning ... (Behemot)