first responders

First responders, dispatchers, nurses, physicians and citizen responders were recognized for their efforts in saving the lives of lightning strike victims McKenzie McCord and Lori Leer.

 Two young people struck by lightning met for the first time with the first responders who helped save their lives.

The meeting came at a ceremony recognizing the Brevard County law enforcement officers, Fire Rescue, EMS personnel, dispatchers, nurses, physicians and citizen responders who all had a part in saving the lives of the two girls. The special recognition at a ceremony was Sept. 8 at the Brevard County Government Center in Viera.

The event brought them all together with the two young girls whose lives they collectively helped to save in June when the two were struck by lightning on Merritt Island.

Just after 3 p.m. June 10, a sudden bolt of lightning hit and set on fire a tree in the residential area of Via Salerno Court off San Angelo Way where the two girls were standing. McKenzie McCord, 12, suffered traumatic injuries and was stabilized and taken to Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital in Cocoa Beach. Lori Leer, 14, went into cardiac arrest and was said by witnesses to have turned blue and had visible burns to her mouth where she wore braces. Leer was transported directly to Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital Pediatric Trauma Care Center in Orlando.

Leer had received immediate CPR on site from her friend and fellow ninth grader at Merritt Island High School, Ava Wiedmann, 14, who was also outside, but seated away from the others when the lightning bolt hit.

Wiedmann, who had never performed cardio-pulmonary resuscitation before, was guided over the phone by dispatchers at Brevard County Sheriff's Office.

At the “Sudden Cardiac Arrest Recognition Ceremony” held by Brevard County Fire Rescue’s Office of Emergency Medical Services, Wiedmann was presented with the “Great Kids Award” by Sheriff Wayne Ivey.

“We greatly appreciate young people like Ava, who do great things to help others,” Ivey said as he gave her a hug after presenting her with the award. He noted that Wiedmann had performed chest compression CPR flawlessly under the direction of dispatchers until BCSO deputies arrived.

Ava, Lori and McKenzie had been together at a sleepover.

“We had just finished watching a show on TV when we heard a loud sound. It didn’t sound like thunder and it was sunny and nice outside when we went out to take a look. I had gotten really cold from the air conditioning and so I sat down on the driveway to soak up some warmth. Lori and McKenzie kept walking. When I saw the tree on fire and the both of them on the ground near it, I was shocked. It was just surreal,” Ava recalled.

Through Wiedmann’s initial intervention and all of the heroic efforts by the EMS and medical personnel, Leer and McCord, were released from the hospitals and said to be neurologically intact.

Leer said she doesn’t recall being struck by lightning that afternoon and just remembers waking up at Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando. While Leer said she does not have any lingering problems and feels fine now, McCord however said she has hip, leg and back pain and her ankles hurt.

“I can’t walk a lot or it really hurts,” she said.

Both girls started the school year late.

“The most important three things are family, community and making each day count. In this case, a community came together to keep these two girls alive and their families intact.” Brevard County Fire Rescue Chief Patrick Voltaire said during the ceremony.

Back Brevard Heroes, an organization dedicated to supporting and appreciating the area’s first responders, gave each of the honored attendees a special recognition coin and gift certificate at the ceremony which was held in the County Commission Room.