LAS VEGAS – A trauma doctor treating one of two Utah teenagers struck by lightning said Wednesday the boy will likely recover but could be left with burn scars across his body.
Alex Lambson, 17, was in an induced coma at University Medical Center, where he was being treated for severe internal and external injuries.
He could improve enough to be taken off life support as soon as Thursday, said Dr. Meena Vohra, chief of pediatrics.
Lambson and his friend Christopher Dane Zdunich, also 17, were leaving Snow Canyon High School in Santa Clara, Utah, near St. George, when they were struck, said Kaleen Talley, Lambson's mother.
Dozens of teenagers watched in horror as the boys slumped to the ground under the mostly clear sky — their clothes singed from the bolt, she said.
An administrator, resource officer and others rushed to move the teenagers inside the school, where they performed CPR until an emergency crew arrived.
Talley rushed to be with her son at a local hospital.
"It's very bizarre," said Talley, 41, a marketing representative. "I can't believe this happened."
Zdunich, a junior, was awake and responding to family members on Wednesday, the Washington County School District reported in a statement. His parents declined to speak with reporters.
Lambson was in the induced coma to help him handle discomfort and pain from the burns, Vohra said.
Being hit by lightning can be fatal because the heart can stop beating, blocking the flow of oxygen to muscles and vital organs, the doctor said.
"Those first few minutes are very crucial," Vohra said.
The quick response by the high school faculty likely saved the lives of the teens and sparred them extensive brain damage, Vohra said.
The lightning burned through the clothing of the boys.
"They handed me a bag of smoldering ashes basically," said David Talley, Lambson's stepfather.
It appeared Lambson had a bad sunburn on his face, his mother said, adding harsher burns covered his neck, chest, arms, legs and back.
Zdunich and Lambson were initially taken to a St. George hospital but were later flown to Las Vegas.
Hours after the mishap, classmates gathered in shock at the St. George hospital.
"For them to have been there, for them to have seen it, it was pretty traumatic," David Talley said.
A handful of friends made the drive to Las Vegas to visit the boys later.
Sam Lieske, 18, a Snow Canyon High School graduate, said he often met the two teens and other friends for Friday night video game tournaments and marathon viewing of the medical TV show "House."
Lieske said the boys' friends weren't sure what to make of the lightning strike.
"It's weird," he said.
After graduation this spring, Lambson had plans to join the Air Force.
Zdunich and Lambson are best friends who met on the school debate team, and Lambson, a senior, is the captain. The boys are also on the cross country team together.
"They hang out in my room all the time," Snow Canyon debate coach Delsy Nielson said. "They almost live there."
The school district planned to provide a trauma counseling team for Snow Canyon High School students.
Arden Lambson, 44, said he wasn't concerned that his oldest son might have scars from the burns.
"We just hope he wakes up and he is our straight-A student again," he said.
Associated Press Writer Paul Foy in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.