Lightning strike leaves N.M. boy critical

Two others were also hospitalized after a bolt hit a tree as middle schoolers were taking shelter from a storm during football practice

By Steve Ramirez
Las Cruces Sun-News,

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A lightning bolt critically injured a 13-year-old boy and three others suffered minor injuries at Picacho Middle School Tuesday, officials said.

Hunter Keffer, a Picacho Middle School eighth-grade football player, suffered the worst injuries after the bolt hit a tree about 5 p.m. and traveled to where the boys and coaches were nearby.

Keffer's teammates were hospitalized as a precaution. A coach received initial medical treatment and eventually went to the hospital.

Keffer's identity was confirmed late Tuesday by Las Cruces Public Schools Superintendent Stan Rounds. Jo Galván, LCPS spokeswoman, said the school district was not authorized to provide the identities of Keffer's two teammates.

Keffer, his teammates and coaches were leaving football practice because the sudden, severe rain and lightning storm forced the team to abruptly halt practice and head for shelter when the lightning struck.

Keffer was hospitalized in stable condition Tuesday night in the pediatric burn unit at University Medical Center of El Paso. According to social media reports, Keffer's mother, a teacher at the school, sent out an email saying Keffer was "in stable condition and breathing on his own."

Las Cruces police said Keffer had to be administered CPR after lightning hit. He was taken by ambulance to MountainView Regional Medical Center and stabilized before being taken to El Paso.

The two other Picacho Middle School players were also taken to MountainView Regional Medical Center. Galván said an unidentified coach also caught in the lightning strike was treated at the scene and later taken to MountainView.

Las Cruces police said injuries to the two players and coach were not life-threatening.

Witnesses told police the lightning strike occurred suddenly and without warning. After hitting the tree, the lightning apparently traveled on the ground to where the players and coach were standing.

Counselors and psychologists will be available Wednesday to any Picacho Middle School students — and affected adults — who need help dealing with Tuesday's incident or want to talk about the accident.

Wednesday's weather forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of scattered showers that could bring heavy rain.

LCPD encouraged residents to remain indoors, in a secure structure, during lightning storms or when lightning is nearby, and released these other safety tips:

• Avoid contact with corded phones

• Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. If you plan to unplug any electronic equipment, do so well before the storm arrives.

• Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes, and do not do laundry.

• Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.

• Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.


©2014 the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.)

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