A haunting photograph captures two brothers’ delight as they giggle at each other’s crazy, static-lifted hair. Disaster strikes — literally — seconds later.

Michael McQuilken, 18, and his 12-year-old brother Sean hiked to the top of Moro Rock in California’s Sequoia National Park with their older brother Jeff and 15-year-old sister Mary. Margie, Mary’s friend, also joined them.

Equipped with an old Kodak Instamatic camera, the siblings managed to capture each other’s grins as they laughed at each others’ hair. Completely unaware of what was to come, the siblings found the occurrence hilarious.

“I took a photo of Mary, and Mary took a photo of Sean and me,” Michael told NBC News in 2013. “I raised my right hand into the air, and the ring I had on began to buzz so loudly that everyone could hear it.”

Then the temperature dropped unexpectedly, and the siblings agreed to return down the mountain. But they didn’t get far before a massive bolt of electricity arced from the sky, electrocuting both Michael and Sean.

Michael recalls feeling as if he were lifted off the ground for several seconds before falling back down. Michael told the outlet that his younger brother had been knocked unconscious and that smoke was pouring from his back and elbows as he huddled on his knees.

Sean had third-degree burns on that day in the 1970s, but when Michael went to check on him, the boy was still alive. He still had a pulse and was breathing.

So, Michael hastily put out the fires that lit up the boy’s body and carried him down to the parking lot. Everyone in the group survived, and those who needed it received medical attention. The pictures their Kodak had procured were submitted to local rangers, who then used them in handouts warning hikers about the dangers of lightning strikes atop the granite peaks in the park.

But what caused the boys’ hair to stand on end as it did that fateful day on August 20, 1975? The answer lies in electrical charges found in the atmosphere, which indicate the imminence of a strike. They cause static to course through the air and frazzle hair.

“We were from San Diego and really stupid,” Michael said. “We thought it was something funny.” He added that he hadn’t exercised caution before that day but that every time he ventures out on hikes that take him to mountainous peaks these days, he flees quickly every time he sees clouds gathering.

After losing Sean to suicide in 1989, Michael, now 66, has become an even greater advocate for hiking safety, specifically when it comes to weather phenomena like the bolt of lightning that struck him and his siblings. But he said many are brash like he and his siblings once were and don’t heed his warnings.

He said the experience “feels like it happened yesterday,” and in 2013, he told NBC that he still received emails at least once a week from strangers asking him what had happened to him that day.

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