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Taylorsville Journal

Lightning strike victim lifesavers honored by Unified Fire Authority

Oct 22, 2019 02:17PM ● By Carl Fauver

Unified Fire Authority Assistant Chief Jay Ziolkowski (R) shakes hands with Andy Keys, one of four people the fire department honored for helping to save the lives of two lightning strike victims. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

 By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

On her way to being elected Taylorsville High School homecoming queen several weeks ago, Chloe Robinson, 17, was asked a silly question by the selection committee about how she eats her Oreos.

They missed a good opportunity to offer up more interesting queries. Some that come to mind:

What does it feel like to be struck by lightning?

When did you learn your father was even more injured than you?

What would you like to say to the people who immediately sprang into action and likely saved your life? 

Ironically, on Sept. 20 — the night Chloe was introduced at the THS homecoming game as queen — was three months to the day after she and her father Scott, 44, were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And Sept. 20 was also two days after four of the people who helped save their lives were honored for their heroism at the Taylorsville City Council meeting by the Unified Fire Authority.

“It’s not just about being in the right place at the right time; it’s about having good training and skills,” UFA Assistant Chief Jay Ziolkowski said. “To have someone struck by lightning is rare to begin with. Then to have trained people nearby to render aid is even more rare. I have never seen an instance like this in my career.”

A 26-year firefighting veteran, Ziolkowski presented certificates of commendation to Andy Keys, Dave Kotter, Mary Ann Marchant and Andrew Nelson. They were among some 15 adult supervisors and 50 to 60 youth on a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints overnight campout at the historic Territorial Statehouse State Park Museum in Fillmore. The Youth Conference outing included members of the Westland-West Jordan Stake Seventh, Eighth and Ninth wards. 

“It was the most terrifying experience of my life, but to see the miracles come out of it was a beautiful thing,” said Westland Ninth Ward Bishop Andy Keys, one of the four honorees. “It had been raining earlier but seemed to be clearing, as people were playing various outdoor games. All of a sudden, I heard a sonic boom — the most terrifying noise in my life. It felt like someone had slapped my face. Every inch of it was in pain. Then I saw two lifeless bodies on the ground. When I ran to them, their eyes were going a million miles an hour, back and forth.”

Marchant and Nelson gave CPR to Scott Robinson, while Kotter cleared Chloe’s throat and offered other assistance.

Soon, the pair were in separate ambulances, in route to Fillmore Community Hospital. About 45 minutes later, they flew in separate helicopters to the University of Utah Health Care – Intermountain Burn Center.

By the time they arrived at the U of U, Scott’s wife, Amy and youngest daughter, Ashley, had already arrived from their Taylorsville home. The only other family member, middle daughter, Jessica, was in route to the U of U, being driven by Keys.

“Ashley and I had not gone to Fillmore, and were babysitting my nieces and nephew when one of the young women leaders called and said, ‘Honey, I need you to sit down’ — it was heart wrenching,” Amy Robinson said. Of her husband and daughter’s rescuers, Amy added, “They are my heroes. No words can describe how grateful I am. They are all my angels.”

Witnesses report the lightning appeared to strike a tree, with the electricity passing through its roots to Scott first, and then Chloe. The THS senior was released from the hospital just two days later, while her father remained for a week.

“I have no memory of the lightning strike,” Scott Robinson said. “In fact, my memory is gone from the morning of June 20, – several hours before the lightning strike, through to the following Monday, June 24. All I can say is a huge, huge thank you to our friends for being willing to jump in and help. I have done some lightning strike research since the incident and have learned, more than anything, survival rates are influenced by what happens in the first 10 minutes. You need someone to leap into action, which is exactly what they did.” 

With better memories of that night than her father, Chloe Robinson added, “What I remember most is how people were so active immediately. So many people cared for us. I am grateful to all the people who stepped up and helped out.”

The youngest of the four honored by UFA was Nelson, who’s the same age as Chloe. He’s reluctant to accept credit.

“I don’t consider myself a hero,” Nelson said. “Everyone wanted to call me a hero. But I felt like a normal kid, doing what anyone would’ve done.

However, unlike most of the people on scene, Nelson had received CPR training.

“CPR classes are held at Taylorsville City Hall on a monthly basis,” Ziolkowski said. “People can register through our website, and then go to the ‘education’ page.”

Now, several months after the lightning strike, Chloe and Scott Robinson are continuing to feel the effects of it.

“My right eardrum is still not working properly; everything I hear is muffled,” Chloe Robinson said. “But my burns healed quickly, and I have no scars. I am doing OK.”

Among Chloe Robinson’s burns was one completely encircling her neck, caused by a metal-chained necklace she was wearing. 

Scott Robinson’s recovery has been a bit slower.

“I have some minor ongoing nerve damage with slight numbness and tingling in parts of my body,” he said. “My equilibrium is also off a bit, and I still don’t have my full energy back. But I was able to return to work. I don’t have any diminished mental capacity. And the doctors are hopeful I will get back to 100%.”

Keys said the Robinsons are fortunate. 

“It was miracle after miracle after miracle that night,” he said. “As I stood over Scott and Chloe, I was pretty sure they would not live. I gave them both blessings. But this incident shows me God lives. That is what it comes down to for me.”

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