FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — One of the survivors of a lightning strike that killed another teenager spoke from his hospital bed on Thursday in an interview with KPHO-TV.
Jaxson Baxter, 17, said he still hasn’t really grasped what happened to him and his two friends David Lyons and Wade Young.
“It still doesn’t all really feel real,” Baxter said.
The 17-year-old is still being treated for the injuries he suffered after being hit by lightning that include burns on his foot, arm and more.
The trio set out for what they thought would be a fun albeit challenging hike at Humphreys Peak on Wednesday in Flagstaff. They were close to the saddle point when they started to notice some rain.
It wasn’t until they were near the summit and above the treeline that the weather seemed to turn.
“Once we had reached the actual summit, we were standing there talking, we had been there for about 60 seconds — fist bumps because we had made it,” Baxter said. “The next thing I remember after that is just laying on the ground and not being able to move.”
All three were hit by lightning. Wade Young, 17, died.
“It felt like an earthquake because I just felt like I had fallen. I didn’t feel much of anything in my legs or my arm until I started to try to move them and it started to burned,” Baxter said.
It wasn’t until Baxter asked Lyons what happened that he learned they’d all been struck by lightning.
“I just woke up and I saw one of my friends rushing over to one of my other friends and I couldn’t move either my legs or my right arm – I couldn’t turn or anything,” Baxter said.
At the time, Lyons was the only one able to move, the 18-year-old was able to call 911 for help.
“I just really want to stress the bravery of my friend David,” Baxter said. “He jumped right into action.”
Lyons started doing CPR on Young trying to revive him, all the while the storm continued to rage around them.
Eventually, Baxter said the 911 dispatchers told them they had to get off the summit and try to make it to the treeline.
“We were told by someone at the sheriff’s office that we needed to come down or we were at a very high risk of getting struck again because the lightning was only getting worse,” said Baxter.
The pair had to leave Young behind and start hiking down. The storm and barrage of lightning strikes made it too dangerous to send rescuers or the helicopter up.
More than three hours after the lightning strike they were finally off the trail and taken by ambulance to the hospital to be treated. It would be several more hours before the sheriff’s search and rescue helicopter could fly in order to retrieve Young’s body.
“We were only maybe a foot a part from each other like I could have reached out and touched my friend who passed away, it was just, that was the difference between making it back down the mountain and being here and passing away so I feel very lucky yes,” Baxter said.
Young had just graduated from Corona Del Sol High School in Tempe, Ariz., and was planning to attend Arizona State University and study business. His friends described him as a “happy kid; very inspiring, and someone who always talked about his family.”
Baxter said he hopes to be out of the hospital sometime Friday.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Young’s family with expenses.