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Off-duty Fla. nurse saves lives at beach

The nurse and her husband rushed to the beach and performed CPR after seeing two boys unconscious after being struck by lightning

By Jill Whalen
The Standard-Speaker

CLEARWATER, Fla. Cassandra “Cassie” Yakubik Thomas was on the beach near Sand Key in Clearwater, Florida, earlier this week when she spotted stormy skies in the distance.

Fearing a thunderstorm, she and her husband, Jay, gathered their two children and retreated to their 16th floor vacation condo.

“The storm was bad. The thunder came rolling in and it sounded like it was right above us,” said Thomas, of Pardeesville, a pediatric nurse at Janet Weis Children’s Hospital/Geisinger in Danville. “I heard a huge bang, looked up and saw a pink lightning bolt strike the beach. I said to my husband, ‘Jay, that just struck the beach. Something’s not right.’”

Her intuition was correct. Through the drenching rain, Thomas saw two people lying on the beach.

“I said, ‘Jay, those people are laying there! I think they got struck!’” she said. “I just started screaming, ‘Are you OK? Are you OK?’”

One of those who was on the ground — later identified as Jansen Tabor, 18, of North Carolina — yelled for her help. He and his friend, Cameron Poimboeuf, 15, also of North Carolina, had been struck by lightning.

“I turned to my husband and said, ‘Jay, call 911! I’m going down!’” she said.

When Thomas couldn’t summon an elevator, she ran down 16 flights of stairs to the beach. Lightning continued and thunder boomed.

“As I was running, I was thinking how unsafe it was to be going out there. (I was) just praying to God in the back of my mind to keep me safe so I could get to them,” she said.

She went to Poimboeuf first.

“He was face down in the sand,” she said. “I rolled him over and immediately started compressions.”

The teen didn’t have a pulse and wasn’t breathing. His skin had turned a bluish-gray.

Thomas continued cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Soon thereafter, off-duty police officer Kirk Pattison, and his wife, Jenny, from Illinois, arrived and helped with CPR.

“We just kept working and working until a firefighter came down and said, ‘We got to get him off the beach. Let’s go,’” Thomas said. “We picked Cameron up and ran him up the beach. We got him under an area at the pool so we had cover.”

As responders from the Clearwater Fire & Rescue Department ran for equipment, Thomas continued CPR.

“Other medics came and we just kept working,” she said. “We got him hooked to the AED, shocked him and he got a pulse.”

Both boys were rushed to local hospitals. Tabor was released Thursday, and Poimboeuf continues his recovery, learwater police spokesman Rob Shaw said.

“He’s walking and talking again,” Shaw said of Poimboeuf.

On Friday, Clearwater police awarded Thomas and the Illinois couple with Good Samaritan medals, an award given to those who go above and beyond in helping others. Tabor, who was released from hospital care Thursday, attended the ceremony with his family.

“She was in the right place at the right time and was able to use all her medical background and talents to save these teenagers,” Shaw said of Thomas. “What she did on Tuesday was a selfless and heroic act.”

Clearwater news station WFLA reported that doctors called both boys’ survival “a miracle.”

“No one survives that kind of hit the boys took,” said Tabor’s mother, Claudette Tabor.

The parents also told the news station that they aren’t sure what could have happened had Thomas and the couple not stepped in.

“We’re blessed by the grace of God that Cameron is still here,” said Poimbouef’s father, Kevin Poimbouef.

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