Duluth boy thanks first responders after lightning strike

Duluth's first responders posed together for a photo with Wendy Burke and her 12-year-old son Nathan Burke at Enger Golf Course where a few weeks ago, they were working to save Nathan's life.

Nathan Burke (left), 12, of Duluth, who was struck by lightning last month shows his scars to State Trooper Jonathon Carlson of Duluth and Duluth Police Department Sgt. Chuck O'Connor during a party Wednesday at Enger Park Golf Course where he thanked all those that rescued him. The two officers were the first two that responded to Enger Park Golf Course the day of the incident. (Clint Austin /
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Duluth's first responders posed together for a photo with Wendy Burke and her 12-year-old son Nathan Burke at Enger Golf Course where a few weeks ago, they were working to save Nathan's life.

After the photo Wednesday, Duluth Police Sgt. Chuck O'Connor gave Wendy a hug and asked Nathan about the injuries he sustained after being struck by lightning June 28.

Duluth firefighter Alex Owen and fire equipment operator Mike Itinaus greeted Nathan, and Itinaus noticed the shoulder strap on Nathan's arm sling had become twisted. Itinaus adjusted it, saying, "There you go."

A person struck by lightning is an unusual call for first responders, and after they transport the patient to the hospital, they don't usually get to see the patients they've treated. It was good to see Nathan is healing, Itinaus said.

Wendy credits the people at the golf course who started CPR and the first responders with saving Nathan's life that day. She wanted to recognize their actions with a gathering.


"They have hard jobs. They see a lot of yucky stuff," Wendy said.

Nathan was on the driving range with his friend when he was struck by lightning shortly before 4 p.m. that day. The Reidar Lund Skyline Memorial Tournament was taking place and the horn had just sounded for players to come in off the course when the lightning bolt struck.

Nathan was transported via Gold Cross Ambulance to Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center and listed in critical condition. He improved and was released from the hospital July 1.

No one will know exactly what happened the moment the lightning bolt came down because no one witnessed the moment Nathan was struck, Wendy said. Nathan's friend was also thrown to the ground by the bolt's strike, but Nathan was thrown farther back, she said.

Nathan is expected to make a full recovery, Wendy said, though he still has pain in his shoulder and his wrists. Nathan said he's feeling OK and he doesn't remember much from the day, but it's good to meet the first responders.

State Trooper J.D. Carlson was the first to arrive on the scene. He had been driving on Trinity Road when he saw lightning strike in the area of the golf course and then he heard the emergency call come over his radio. Carlson said he's glad Nathan is doing well. It was the first time Carlson had responded to a lightning strike, but first responders train for it, he said.

O'Connor said he was grateful people at the golf course had Nathan's pulse going when he arrived on the scene. He took over the CPR compressions and just did what he's supposed to do as a police officer, said Carlson, who had a friend die after being struck by lightning 20 years ago.

O'Connor said he didn't know what he would see when he arrived at the golf course June 28 and even after years experience, first responders can still be affected by accident scenes. He added, "It's scary, even for a police officer."


A child being struck by lightning is every parent's worst nightmare, said Wendy's sister Cheryl Robatzen of Pensacola, Fla. Wendy sent her a text to let her know what happened to Nathan, but it was surreal reading the text.

"Your brain reads it and you're just not getting it," she explained.

Wendy's sister Cindy Dumke of Boca Raton, Fla., called Nathan's survival "a miracle" and their family was blessed that everyone was there to help. Robatzen said hearing the first responders' stories from the scene means a lot to the family.
"There's no amount of money, no words to thank them enough for being there," Robatzen said. Dumke added, "God had the right people in the right place at the right time."

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