MONROE, OH (FOX19) - An iconic and massive statue of Jesus in Monroe, OH was destroyed after being struck by lightning Monday night.
The six-story statue was a well-known landmark on Interstate 75 since 2004, and was called "King of Kings" by members of Solid Rock Church, where it stood.
The lightning strike set the statue ablaze just after 11 p.m., Monroe police dispatchers said.
The 62-foot tall and 40-foot wide statue weighing 16,000 pounds quickly became engulfed in flames after the lightning strike. Fire crews were on the scene for several hours to put out the fire, but no one was injured.
The statue, also nicknamed "Touchdown Jesus" because of the way its arms were outstretched, is made out of wood and Styrofoam. The statue also had a steel frame anchored in concrete and fiberglass. The steel frame was all that remained after the fire. According to 911 calls, the lightning struck the right hand of the statue.
The fire spread to the attic of an adjacent amphitheater, but no other buildings at the church were affected. Fire chief Mark Neu says the fire caused $700,000 in damage to the statue and amphitheater. Neu says he believes the church has insurance.
The pastor of Solid Rock Church says the church does plan to rebuild the statue.
Travelers on Interstate 75 often were 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.
Monday a constant stream of passersby and visitors stopped both on the highway and on the walkway at the foot of the statue to see the damage for themselves. Many had never been to the church before. They simply drove by the statue every day and wanted to see what was left it after the lightning strike.
For some visitors the lightning strike and fire was a sign from God.
"Things happen for a reason and you never know the reason," said Ruth Clark.
Deborah Hooks spent a few days at a conference at Solid Rock Church.
"To see this my heart really goes out to the members and the pastor," said Hooks. "People need to stay focused and see God's hand in all of this. There's something good in all of this still."
For others, it was simple physics that destroyed the King of Kings statue.
"It was made out of fiberglass and steel. Mother nature, mother nature," said Erik Larkin, who passes the statue as he commutes to and from school.
Like it or not, everyone visiting anticipates what the Solid Rock Church will do to replace what it lost.
The 4,000-member, nondenominational 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.