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LIGHTNING-STRUCK WOMAN WOULD LIKE TO THANK HELPER

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A young Tooele woman will likely never forget her close call a week ago with lightning, and she wishes she and her husband could find the man who so willingly came to their aid.

Aubrey Renfro, 18, who suffered second-degree burns and ruptured eardrums, continues to recuperate at the home of her parents, Steve and Tammy McCrone, in Tooele. She will undergo surgery Sept. 6 to repair her left eardrum."I feel better now, but I still have real bad headaches. And I am weak and can't do very much," said Renfro, explaining that she and her husband, Delbert, 21, would like to find the driver of a new blue Jeep Cherokee to thank him for his help the evening of Friday, July 21.

Renfro, her husband and a friend, James Kern, 21, Tooele, were each riding four-wheelers when lightning struck the woman. Renfro said the unidentified man apparently left the Tooele Valley Medical Center after driving the couple there.

"I just want to thank him so much for taking me there. If he hadn't been there and available to help, I probably would have died. My husband thought I was dead. Then he rolled me over and I started coughing," Renfro said Friday during a telephone interview.

She said Kern found the man in the Cherokee while en route to call 911.

Renfro said the three were riding the vehicles in a pit near the old Tooele airport when it started to rain. As they were preparing to leave the area, Renfro was hit on top of her head by a lightning bolt that traveled part way down her back, around her right shoulder and exited through her left breast.

The vehicles' electrical systems were damaged.

Renfro said she doesn't remember anything after being hit. But she said her husband and Kern later described the incident as a "big, loud bomb" sound, followed by the sky turning white with flashes of lightning.

"They found me lying on the ground. My husband picked me up and tried to find a heartbeat. James went to call 911 and found the man in the Jeep Cherokee about two blocks away. James then continued on his way to call emergency vehicles," she said.

Renfro said she was treated and released at the medical center, then taken by her father to Grantsville Clinic, where a nurse practitioner started an IV and treated her for burns. That same evening she was transferred by Gold Cross Ambulance to LDS Hospital, where she spent the night.

"I never thought I would be struck by lightning. We were all very scared. I remember waking up at the (Tooele) hospital," Renfro said. She said she now has about 40 percent of the hearing in her left ear and that her doctor hopes her right eardrum will heal on its own.

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National Weather Service and Utah Safety Council officials warn that this is the lightning season and urge people to take precautions. Lightning is Utah's No. 1 weather-related killer, says National Weather Service meteorologist William J. Alder.