Fact Check

Did Lightning Strike a Getaway Car Used in a Church Robbery?

While this story was certainly fantastic, it was also completely false.

Published Dec 19, 2014

A getaway car was struck by lightning after its occupants robbed a church.

On December 16, 2014, a video that purportedly showed a car being struck by lightning spread virally on Facebook, accompanied by a news story claiming the passengers in the vehicle had just robbed a church in St. Petersburg, Russia:

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — A group of masked men robbed a church in St. Petersburg and led police on a high speed chase last Tuesday. The pursuit was cut short however, when a bolt of lightning destroyed the car and killed all the passengers inside. According to police reports another car was also damaged after hitting the ruined getaway vehicle.

While the story was certainly fantastic, it was also completely false. No reports of a church being robbed in St. Petersburg had recently been made, nor had any credible sources confirmed that several people died there in December 2014 after a vehicle was struck by lightning. In fact, it appeared the only source reporting on these incredible and unbelievable claims was in the text accompanying the YouTube video.

The vehicle shown in the video was not fleeing the scene of a church heist. As for the lightning? Well, that was also the work of someone's imagination.

The video was uploaded by World TV News on December 16, 2014. This was the only video World TV News had uploaded, and while that alone did not discredit the clip, it did cast a skeptical shadow over its credibility.

As for the video itself, several factors proved the claim made about what it captured was untrue. First, the video was clearly edited at the moment of the lightning strike -- a split second before the screen goes white, a snowy hill is visible on the right side of the screen:

A split second later, however, the hill was gone:

Pausing the video at the moment of the supposed lightning strike also made it clear the video showed a head-on collision and not the wrath of an angry god:

Indeed, the full, unedited version of the video documented this clip to be an ordinary vehicular accident and not a wrath of God lightning strike on a vehicle fleeing a church heist:


Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.