"She was pretty hysterical," Nikorak said. "She (saw) the whole thing. She's likely scarred for life. I know I will be. That was her mom. She was young."
Nikorak said she and her friend thought they were safe because the weather was sunny where they were and the storm was behind them.
Senior Capt. Tammy Marris, of Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue, said that's a common misconception.
"That can be very deceiving for people," Marris said. "It starts to clear up, (the) sun starts to come back out and people just want to get back out there in the water."
Seven people have been killed by lightning so far this year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In 2015, lightning claimed the lives of 27 people nationwide.
Earlier this month, a 47-year-old farm worker was killed by a lightning strike in Manatee County.
Gardner's three children were placed in the custody of Florida's Department of Children and Families as they waited to be picked up by relatives in Georgia.