Lightning strikes at Picacho Middle school; 13-year-old in critical condition

A Las Cruces boy is in critical condition Tuesday night.

Picacho lightning strike

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - A Las Cruces boy is in critical condition Tuesday night. He was hurt after a lightning strike on the field of Picacho Middle school off Motel Boulevard near Highway 70.

Police say six people were injured, Las Cruces Public Schools said four were taken to the hospital. That 13-year-old boy was taken to University Medical Center's trauma center.

Reliable sources tell ABC-7 his name is Hunter Keffer. Teachers tell me he had no pulse during in the ambulance ride to El Paso.

Around five Tuesday evening, a coach and about 40 football players were practicing. It was barely raining, i'm told, just sprinkling. And no one expected what would happen next.

"I kind of just heard this strike," said Picacho Middle language arts teacher Dawson Yarbrough.

"Apparently from what a couple coaches told me," said Las Cruces Public School Communications Director Jo Galvan, "they had already made their decision to head back in because it was sprinkling and immediately all of a sudden there's a flash of lightning."

"I had seen the flash, like not even a couple seconds later," said 8th grade football player Emiliano Frano. "I was gross I never smelled anything like that."

Galvan said lighting hit tall trees in the back of the field, it became grounded, then spread through the field as the coach and players were walking toward the gym, making them fall.

"There were people panicking, crying, you know, people not knowing who got hit," Franco said.

Teachers in their classrooms heard about the incident.

"We saw the fire trucks and the ambulance so we know something happened," Yarbrough said.

LCPS said the team's coach was minoring injured along with three 13-year-old boys.

"One of them was traumatized by the noise," Franco said. "His name was Zeke. "He couldn't hear anything because he was just sitting there. He was able to hear things at first, but then he became mute."

Teachers said two boys were taken to Mountain View Hospital in Las Cruces. But one boy wasn't responding.

"When he was in the ambulance he didn't have a pulse," Yarbrough said.

"He saw him on the floor, we didn't see him breathing. He was stiff," Franco said.

"One of the parents was the one who actually did CPR on the kids," said Picacho music teacher Emmanuel Hernandez. "If it wasn't for him it would be a different story."

"The CPR that he received on the field was what kept him long enough for the paramedics to resuscitate him and stabilize him," Yarbrough said.

For now, athletic activities have been canceled and Picacho officials are determining their next steps, including providing counseling for students who need to talk about what they saw.

"It's very unusual," Galvan said. "I can't remember in my 25 years with the school district this every happening."

"I feel traumatized," Franco said, "because I've never seen anything like that."

Teachers told ABC-7, everyone, including the little boy who taken to UMC is alive. They're relieved and happy that this freak incident didn't result in anything worse happening, although the memory of it will be with them forever.

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