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Utah family recalls faith-building 'miracles' after father, daughter struck by lightning

WEST JORDAN — After getting back from a trip to Europe with her family and receiving a perfect ACT score, little did Chloë Robinson know that lightning was about to strike.

"I didn't know what had happened. I honestly thought I was dreaming because I didn't recognize where I was. And I was lying down so I thought it must be, 'I'm making something up,'" Chloë recalled.

On June 20, the 17-year-old had just had a great day at youth conference with about 200 other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Territorial Statehouse State Park museum.

Chloe Robinson shows burns on her leg in West Jordan on Friday, June 28, 2019. Chloe and her father, Scott, were struck by lightning during a church youth conference in Fillmore on June 20.
Chloe Robinson shows burns on her leg in West Jordan on Friday, June 28, 2019. Chloe and her father, Scott, were struck by lightning during a church youth conference in Fillmore on June 20.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

It started like any family trip. They drove to Fillmore, went swimming, ate dinner and played pioneer games with the group. It rained intermittently throughout the day, but the skies had seemed to clear by 8 p.m. Chloë was playing a game of croquet with her dad, Scott Robinson, under a large tree when the storm began.

"It was just the most immense flash and the clap and just a big sonic boom. It was really a sound I'd never heard before," Dave Kotter, a neighbor of the Robinsons, remembered. "I said out loud: 'That was close.'"

Kotter then heard the yell: "Someone's down."

The father and daughter — who were both hit by the lightning strike — and friends who jumped in to help them gathered Friday in the family's West Jordan home. Surrounded by flowers sent by well-wishers, they tearfully remembered what they called a collection of miracles that led to Chloë and Scott Robinson returning home after brief stints in the hospital.

"There are many small miracles that happened," Kotter explained. "I was asked to be in charge of the food … so that's the only reason I was there."

He'd stayed at the eating area to help clean up after dinner and prepare for the next day. But then, Kotter felt like he needed to go check on his daughter in another part of the camp. "At that moment, that's when I was walking over to find my daughter and see what was going on. I came around the corner of the property there and stopped there to take a picture," Kotter recalled. Within five minutes, the lightning struck.

"And so that put me in motion to be nearby when the lightning hit," said Kotter, a nurse practitioner trained in critical care.

He went to Scott Robinson first and "simple instincts kind of took over." Robinson looked "gray and ashen," wasn't breathing, and his eyes had rolled back into his head, Kotter recalled.

But he felt prompted "to go to Chloë. I apologize, but that's when I left" to treat her, Kotter told Scott Robinson. The teen was convulsing, and he opened up her airway and stayed with her until first responders arrived.

"He's told me that he felt very strongly impressed to go to Chloë and to keep her airway open, which," Scott Robinson said, trailing off as he became emotional. "As a father, I am so thankful for. I don't think any parent wouldn't trade their life for their child. Just to hear that that happened is … thank you, Dave."

Scott Robinson and daughter Chloe show a tattered hat in West Jordan on Friday, June 28, 2019. Scott Robinson was wearing the hat when the pair were hit by lightning during a church youth conference in Fillmore on June 20.
Scott Robinson and daughter Chloe show a tattered hat in West Jordan on Friday, June 28, 2019. Scott Robinson was wearing the hat when the pair were hit by lightning during a church youth conference in Fillmore on June 20.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Meanwhile, two more conferencegoers, Mary Ann Marchant and 17-year-old Andrew Nelson, started performing CPR on the father.

"The whole time I was pushing on his chest, to be honest, all I could think about was Amy," Marchant explained, referring to Scott Robinson's wife. "And I just kept saying, 'You have to live for Amy. You have to live.' That's all I could think of the whole time."

Robinson was in cardiac arrest, his heart stopped, and his friends brought him back, he said. Medical crews continued the process and by the time he arrived at the University of Utah Hospital, he'd been stabilized. A doctor told Robinson if he hadn't been stabilized, his odds of survival would've been low.

Chloe Robinson looks at her tattered jeans with her father, Scott, in West Jordan on Friday, June 28, 2019. Chloe was wearing the jeans when the pair were hit by lightning during a church youth conference in Fillmore on June 20.
Chloe Robinson looks at her tattered jeans with her father, Scott, in West Jordan on Friday, June 28, 2019. Chloe was wearing the jeans when the pair were hit by lightning during a church youth conference in Fillmore on June 20.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

About 1 in 10 lightning victims are killed, according to National Geographic, while 7 in 10 suffer serious long-term effects.

"Those first two hours were critical. Everyone helped me in that timeframe," Robinson said.

His new favorite hat, recently bought on the family's European trip in Switzerland, was tattered from the lightning strike. Likewise, the lightning shredded Chloe's sweatshirt from Paris.

Scott Robinson doesn't remember anything about the ordeal until he came to on Monday. He recalled waking up and thinking, "I'm fine. What happened?"

By Friday, "I feel great," he said, despite bruised lungs and lower energy.

When Robinson learned what had happened, he felt "shocked. And then extremely grateful. Extremely grateful for everyone that stepped in and helped Chloë, and that her recovery was just so amazing," Robinson recalled.

"Something I've thought about is how do I take some meaning out of the suffering we went through? One thing that I've taken as Chloe's dad, is I got the brunt of the lightning. What would have happened if she got the brunt? So I take great meaning out of being able to, you know? I didn't choose to, but I'm glad that I shielded her from the brunt of it," he said.

"I've got another reason to live. I've got more reasons to live. I've got to figure those out. I've got to push forward, I've got to be a good person. It's a second lease on life," he said.

Chloë agreed.

Scott Robinson talks with daughter Chloe in the hospital after both were struck by lightning at a church youth conference in Fillmore.
Scott Robinson talks with daughter Chloe in the hospital after both were struck by lightning at a church youth conference in Fillmore.
Marta Dansie, Deseret News

"I don't think I was ever in danger of dying necessarily, but it's just confirming that I've got important things to do. You know, I'm very glad for all these people, friends, neighbors, who have kind of come out of the woodwork to help our family. Motivates me to kind of reach out and develop those friendships a little bit better, because it's like, it would've been so hard if we didn't have these relatives we love in town. If we didn't have all these people looking out for us right around here," she said.

Chloë was released from the hospital Saturday afternoon. She says she and her family knew their dad would be OK while they waited for his release.

Chloë had a burn on her head when she got to the U. hospital and had to shave that area. The rest of her hair was singed, she said, and so she decided to shave the rest of her head. "I'm like, 'Let it go, it's OK.' I'm still getting used to it," she said. She was also left with a long mark up her leg from where the lightning traveled.

Scott Robinson credited the priesthood blessings given by friends and family for helping them through the ordeal. "I am very thankful that there were people willing to work on me and give me blessings straight away. There's no doubt it had an impact. I'm convinced it had a positive impact."

Chloë also received blessings, as well as her mom and sisters. "I think that stability that provided us all was definitely critical in keeping us all together," she explained.

According to the teen's mother, Amy Robinson, "Being home, it was a little different because I had to hear it through the phone, and people were contacting me. … I received a blessing that commanded that I be calm and that my heart be still, and it just came right then. And I don't think it went away until probably yesterday, and then I fell apart."

Having her family reunited on Thursday night made her "just so happy. We ate dinner as a family last night, and just having all my family together and being able to just talk and be back to normal almost just felt so good," Amy Robinson said.

The whole experience "definitely strengthened my faith," Scott Robinson said. "All the miracles along the way, all the people that jumped in, all the things that went right that could've gone wrong. It's incredibly faith confirming, faith increasing, and the hard part, as I've mentioned, the struggle right now is, 'Why am I so lucky?' Gotta believe it's a second lease on life and make sure that my life is worth it."