STATEN ISLAND — Lighting struck a century-old church in the Travis section of Staten Island Monday during morning services, causing a fire and extensive damage at the historic house of worhip, authorities and witnesses said.
The bolt struck the steeple of the St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church at 4055 Victory Blvd., setting the 104-year-old parish ablaze about 8:43 a.m. and ripping a hole through the church's roof, FDNY and church officials explained.
No injuries were reported, an FDNY spokesman said, but lighting startled clergy inside the church at the time, as well as nearby witnesses.
"It sounded like as if fireworks were going off," said Fr. John Wroblewski, who believes the crucifix-topped structure will have to be replaced. "I saw smoke pouring out of the top of the steeple."
Wroblewski was inside with eight others at the time for morning offerings when he saw lighting but didn't know it had struck the church.
"I had no idea the steeple was hit," he said. "I didn't smell anything."
Parishioner Helen Keiling, who has been coming to the parish her whole life and whose granfather helped build the church, rushed to the scene when she heard the lighting strike.
"It was just this big crash of sound," said Keiling, who lives two blocks from the church. "You could tell something was hit. I never thought it would be the church."
More than 60 firefighters in 12 units responded to the blaze, which the FDNY could not confirm was caused by the lighting.
"We're just praying there's not a lot of damage," Keiling added. "It's very special to all of us."
Wroblewski, who is leaving the church this week after 13 years, said the damage could take a substantial toll on the parish.
"It's going to be an expensive proposition," he said.