Girl struck by lightning in Sun City West, dad helps save her life, medical officials say

A 12-year-old girl was rushed to the hospital after being struck by lightning during intense storms on Saturday in Sun City West.
Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 10:11 AM MST|Updated: Oct. 17, 2022 at 5:26 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A 12-year-old girl was rushed to the hospital after being struck by lightning during intense storms on Saturday in Sun City West. Doctors say she’s lucky to be alive and credit her dad with saving her life.

Dr. Kevin Foster, director of the Arizona Burn Center, said Monday morning that Ella Jorgensen is doing well and that her family was in “good spirits.” She’s expected to be released from the hospital very soon. Her father, Steven Jorgensen, said the first thing she said after waking up was that she was going to have a “cool” story to tell.” Foster said Steven Jorgensen was at the right place at the right time. He resuscitated her by performing chest compressions while paramedics arrived after she was struck. “I’m just a dad taking care of his daughter,” said Steven Jorgensen.

He, his daughter and some of her friends were visiting grandparents in Sun City West when the storms rolled through. “Just seemed like any other normal day when it comes to the rain here in Arizona,” Steven Jorgensen said. He said Ella was just stepping outside when the thunder started to rumble. He said that it wasn’t but just a few seconds later when she was hit.

Doctors said Ella Jorgensen was lucky because they believe it was not a direct strike and the lightning most likely struck right next to her. “When they were taking the breathing tubes out, that’s when she was trying to figure out what happened, and I broke the news to her that she got struck by lightning. She didn’t believe me at first, and once they got the tubes out and her mom told her again, she just looked at her mom and said ‘I’m going to have a cool story to tell forever now!’ Steven Jorgensen said. “I’m just a dad taking care of his daughter.”

Jorgensen said his daughter has “real small, superficial” burns that came from a necklace she was wearing. “The main injury she had, the burning was on her chest. It bubbled up a little bit. And she has some minor burns on her hip, her thigh, and her face,” he said.

While lightning is quite common, being struck isn’t. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the chances of being struck by lightning in a given year are less than one in a million. While almost 90% of lightning strike victims survive, the National Weather Service found 19 people in the U.S. have died from lightning so far this year. Ella Jorgensen came close to being the 20th with her heart stopping three separate times. Each time, her father, a Marine veteran, resuscitated her by performing CPR. “Trying to keep calm from the whole situation the scene from the office, the CPR training scene kicked in my head and you could hear me singing the Bee Gee’s ‘Staying Alive’ as I was giving her resuscitation,” Steven Jorgensen said.