2 Charlotte teens struck by lightning in Florida

Lightning strike witness talks about helping victims

A nurse from Pennsylvania describes giving CPR to the most injured of the two teens from Charlotte who were struck by lightning on a beach in Florida.
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A nurse from Pennsylvania describes giving CPR to the most injured of the two teens from Charlotte who were struck by lightning on a beach in Florida.

Two Charlotte area teenagers are recovering in a hospital after lightning struck them on a beach in Clearwater, Fla., on Tuesday afternoon.

Cameron Poimboeuf, 15, of Charlotte was upgraded from critical to serious condition on Wednesday at Tampa General Hospital, a hospital spokesman said.

Jansen Tabor, 18, of Matthews was upgraded from fair to good condition.

Tabor told police that he and Poimboeuf began running for shelter when a storm rolled in. The next thing Tabor remembered was waking up on the sand, the Clearwater Police Department said on Twitter.

Poimboeuf’s girlfriend, Caroline Tabor, is Jansen Tabor’s sister. She started a GoFundMe page, “Lightning Strike Victims,” to help with Poimboeuf’s medical expenses.

The teens’ families said they’re grateful to a vacationing nurse who quickly came to the teens’ aid, administering CPR until paramedics arrived.

Cassandra Thomas, a pediatric nurse from Pennsylvania, saw the pair in distress from her 16th-floor room in the Lighthouse Towers condominiums. She immediately left her room to help. “And, of course, the elevator wasn’t working,” she told Tampa Bay Times.

When she got to the beach, she saw Poimboeuf lying face down in the sand. “He had no pulse, not breathing,” Thomas told the newspaper. “He was blue-gray.”

She began performing CPR. “When someone needs help, that’s your job,” Thomas, 31, said in the interview. “If you’re at work or not, you’re there to help. Somebody needed to help that boy.”

At a news conference at Tampa General Hospital on Wednesday, family members of the teens called Thomas a guardian angel.

“I’m very, very grateful to her for what she did for both of the boys, especially Cameron,” said Claudette Tabor, Jansen Tabor’s mom. “And calling 911 and getting such a fast and rapid response, I think that’s definitely what saved Cameron.”

Kirk Pattison, a 43-year-old police officer from Illinois, was close behind Thomas and assisted with CPR.

The lightning struck Jansen Tabor’s right leg, causing temporary paralysis, his mother said, while Poimboeuf went into cardiac arrest.

He remained in intensive care on Wednesday, “but doctors are very encouraged about his improving vital signs, so he’s making some really good strides,” dad Kevin Poimboeuf said at the news conference. “He’s a fighter,” Poimboeuf said of his son, a rising freshman at Providence High and a stellar football player. “He’s got a strong will.”

Thomas and Pattison told reporters they were hoping for the best for Poimboeuf.

“I was so, so, so grateful to help him,” Thomas told the Tampa Bay Times. “I just wish I was there sooner. I wish I was a little bit closer to him than I was and got him sooner than I did.”

“If you were in that situation, you’d want somebody to help, especially with children,” Pattison told ABC Tampa affiliate WFTS. “That’s something somebody should do for anybody else.”

The storms that produced the lightning appeared suddenly on the beach.

“They went from not a cloud in the sky to blinding storms in about a half hour,” chief meteorologist Jim Van Fleet of TV station WTSP told the Tampa Bay Times. “It just blew up on them. If they weren't looking to the west … they would have had no idea.”

Still, he said, people on the beach should have heard the approaching thunder.

On its Facebook page, the Clearwater Police Department said: “The incident reminds us how dangerous lightning is and the importance of heading indoors when storms threaten – not just overhead, but anywhere nearby.”

The National Weather Service said 14 people have been killed by lightning this year, four in Florida, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

A Gaston County business owner and lay minister, Scott Pasour of Dallas, died Saturday after being struck by lightning near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak