ANACONDA, Mont. — When lightning hit a teenage golfer in early September, a school bus driver helped revive the boy using CPR.
Barry Bannon, a driver for the Livingston School District, had taken the Livingston golf team to a high school tournament at the Anaconda Country Club golf course.
A storm that had been moving in the opposite direction a few miles away took a sudden turn to the golf course, and as some players and coaches started to run for cover, a lightning bolt hit a 14-year-old Anaconda player, knocking him to the ground on the seventh hole tee box.
Bannon and several coaches, including Park High School coach Reid Lende, were playing a round of golf themselves and were near the boy who got hit.
“I believe God had a hand in having put us all together at that spot when it happened,” Bannon said.
“Some coaches don’t play, but we’ve been saying for years that if an accident happened, such as a kid getting hit by a golf ball or whatever, it would be good to have someone out there,” Lende said. “I think it was fortunate for that kid we were where we were.”
Lende had taken cover in some willow bushes right before the lightning strike. After the lightning hit the player, Lende and others ran over to help.
“The kid was lying there; smoke was coming off him. His golf club was basically blown in half and his hat looked in the back like it had been put in a paper shredder. We checked his pulse; he didn’t have one,” Lende said.
Four people, including Bannon, started CPR, and Lende ran about a mile back to the clubhouse to get the golf pro, a cart and additional help. Shortly after he returned to the boy, the ambulance arrived.
Bannon said that at first the CPR was not working, but when his turn came, he was determined to continue it until the ambulance arrived.
With another coach, Chad Peterson from Butte, pushing on the boy’s heart, Bannon said he breathed into the young golfer’s mouth.
“He tasted like gunpowder. It was raining, and all I can remember thinking was we were not going to let this boy die,” Bannon said.
“I don’t know how long we worked at it. Maybe four to seven minutes. About a minute before the ambulance arrived, he gurgled, and for the first time, we had a pulse. He then took a breath and breathed a little more. I kept giving him a little more of my air to help him along,” Bannon said.
After the ambulance crew took the teen away, Bannon said he and the coaches "just sort of fell apart."
“We realized what had happened and what we did. The whole experience was hard on us, but don’t call us heroes. It’s one thing I don’t want to ever have to do again,” he said.
Anaconda High School Principal Walt Hansen visited the young golfer at the hospital in Missoula the next day.
“He was talking and moving. He was under a lot of medication and is in a certain amount of pain,” Hansen said. “The doctors are quite positive about his recovery.”
Story by Livingston (Mont.) Enterprise staff. Reprinted with permission.