FAMILY REUNION 12-year-old boy in hospital after lightning strikes
The boy is on a ventilator and remains sedated.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A big flash of light and a giant bang.
That's how Tammy Coon described the lightning that struck a family reunion in northwestern Pennsylvania, injuring several dozen people and sending her 12-year-old young cousin to a Pittsburgh hospital, where he remained in critical condition Monday.
"There was a large ball of light, a huge, huge explosion," Coon told reporters at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Coon's cousin, David Rogan, remained sedated and on a ventilator, said Dr. Ann Thompson, a critical care physician at the hospital. The lightning knocked David unconscious. Coon, a registered nurse, and other relatives performed CPR for about 20 minutes until paramedics arrived.
David's mother, Jennifer Rogan of New Castle, often fought back tears as she recounted what happened Saturday evening at a family farm in Sugarcreek, about 70 miles north of Pittsburgh.
About 80 family members had gathered for the annual weekend picnic at the Bell family farm. When it started raining, David and his aunt, Ann Bell, took refuge under a pine tree. Coon and Rogan were chatting about 20 feet away.
"There was no storm," Rogan said. "It was just raining, and all of a sudden there was tragedy."
The lightning was "a loud something, a noise or feeling I felt," Rogan said. "I was knocked to the ground."
When Coon and Rogan regained their bearings, they heard yelling and screaming.
"Family members were on their knees crying out to the Lord," Coon said. "There were people praying everywhere. He was our help; he was our strength. That's why there aren't 15 obituaries in the papers."
When Coon got to David, he was unconscious and without a pulse. After being resuscitated, he was flown by helicopter to Pittsburgh. Bell and another relative, Sarah Cochran, were also flown to Pittsburgh's Mercy Hospital but have since been released.
More than two dozen people at the function were treated for various injuries. One male relative had his foot on a bicycle when the lightning hit. "It blew his boot off and split the seam of his pants right up his leg," Coon said.
The lightning also left a superficial red mark on David's right foot, a surprisingly minor injury considering that his shoe was demolished.
"It's an extraordinary bit of destruction," Dr. Thompson said. "The foot is OK. The shoe is not."
Doctors don't know yet if the boy suffered any brain injury. Currently, they're protecting his nervous system, so they can't properly assess his neurological status, Dr. Thompson said Monday.
"If he does well, it'll be because he had that resuscitation," she said. "He doesn't have other serious injuries. The potential for recovery is up to him."