A 20-year-old man is recovering after being struck by lightning while riding his motorcycle on Interstate 66 near Haymarket, Virginia, on Saturday.
Noah Fowler, of Haymarket, was returning home from a visit to Skyline Drive just before 4:45 p.m. when it happened, according to his sister, who spoke on behalf of the family.
The lightning bolt went through his helmet, medical staff at a nearby hospital confirmed, he said.
“They could see that the lightning went into his ear and opened his entire eardrum,” he said. “It went through part of his necklace.”
He suffered burns on his neck from jewelry, as well as in other places from metal on his jeans, Lauren said. She is expected to suffer permanent hearing damage in one ear, which will prevent her from hearing high frequencies.
In a turn of events that Lauren called “miraculous,” her brother had no broken bones or internal bleeding.
Fowler underwent surgery to transplant skin on the areas where he suffered burns on Wednesday and returned home from the hospital on Thursday, the first time since the accident.
There at the right time
Erica Sutherland of King George County, Virginia, witnessed the lightning strike. The professional photographer was heading toward Skyline Drive at the time to take photos of the sunset, the same spot Fowler was driving home from when he crashed.
Sutherland heard a “loud bang” while driving in heavy rain.
Sutherland, in the passenger seat of his vehicle, told the driver to stop. He said he began screaming as he ran toward Fowler.
He administered CPR and called paramedics to help her.
Sutherland, mother of a 19-year-old daughter, felt a strong need to help Noah Fowler.
“The only thing I could think is, 'I have a son this age and I can't let him die,' and he was already dead. He had no pulse,” Sutherland said.
Fowler stopped breathing shortly after the attack, apparently for three or four minutes. When he started breathing again, Sutherland helped him call his mother.
Sutherland said he told her: “Please tell my mom I love her very much if anything happens to me. “Madam, thank you very much for saving me.”
Lauren Fowler said she drove to the spot on the opposite side of the road, “honking at everyone” to get other drivers out of her way.
Other family members responded to the scene, as well as Noah Fowler's girlfriend, who had tracked his location using an app and noticed his phone wasn't moving, Lauren said.
A good Samaritan turned into 'family'
Noah Fowler and Sutherland have bonded over the experience and the woman is now "family," according to her sister.
“God really put her where she needed to be,” Lauren Fowler said. “She saved her life. And if it weren't for her, he wouldn't be here.”
Sutherland said she doesn't consider herself a hero and now feels connected to the family, even visiting Noah Fowler in the hospital.
“We will always be united,” Sutherland said.
The days since the lightning strike.
Lauren Fowler called her brother "selfless" and said he has a sense of humor about the situation.
"He's just been making jokes about himself," she said. "I know he has trouble sleeping at night."
When he is allowed visitors, the family has taken turns so that there is always someone by his side.
"I don't think any of us are thinking clearly," Lauren Fowler said. “None of us can sleep or eat. “It’s just crazy.”
She and her younger brother have been preparing for their return home.
“We got a lot of cards from people and balloons, and we gave him a 'Welcome Home' sign,” Lauren said, adding that she hopes he feels a little better when he's home. "I think he's tired of being in the hospital."