WATCH: Hero nurse Chris Burden talks about how he saved the man’s life who had been struck by lightning
TORONTO – Chris Burden was in the clubhouse at Stouffville’s Bethesda Grange Golf course, taking shelter from the severe storm rolling through southern Ontario Tuesday, when lightning struck and the room was “overwhelmed” by thunder.
Someone was hit.
Burden and his brother, a police officer in Halton, ran outside and saw four people injured. One of them, a 60-year-old man, was lying face down about 50 yards from the 18th hole.
Witness Peter Epstein said the man appeared dead, his clothing was melted and his skin was burned.
“He wasn’t breathing and he didn’t have a pulse, and he wasn’t conscious. He was dead,” Epstein said Tuesday.
Burden, an ICU nurse, said his instincts immediately took over.
“His body was burned, his face, his hands, everything we could see was burned,” he said. “He was purple, he was ashen at the time. His eyes had rolled back into the back of his head and it was just purely instincts to start CPR.”
WATCH: Witness describes scene after four men were struck by lightning at Toronto-area golf course
READ MORE: Ontario’s deadliest tornadoes
He rolled the man over and started CPR with his brother.
“This guy’s not going to go now, me and my brother have to do what’s got to be done until somebody can come with better tools than we have.”
Burden finished two minutes of chest compressions and CPR. His brother was about to start when there was another clap of thunder overhead and Burden thought he was also going to be hit.
But as his brother started giving CPR, the man started breathing.
“His eyes started to open, he started to move his hand and started to move his arms,” Burden said. “I started looking at my brother as if to say, I think we got him, I think we got him back.”
Burden and his brother focused on keeping the man stable and moved him to a safer position, off the course, away from the golf clubs and out of the rain. Paramedics came and took the man to hospital in critical condition.
“Did that just really happen?” asked Burden.
Three other men were hit and injured on the golf course as the storm moved through much of southern Ontario, flooding some streets in Toronto and damaging hundreds of homes when a tornado touched down in Angus, Ontario.
After the paramedics came, Burden and his brother went back to the clubhouse and ordered a burger and a drink.
When crowds of people started to form, they left.
“My brother’s a cop, I’m a nurse, we’re public servants. We do our job for others, we don’t do it for ourselves,” said Burden. “We work to make other people better and safer and we’ve done that for years and years now. So the hero thing, it’s a title. I just did what I knew I could do in that situation. Luckily what I did, it helped save this guy. I hope what I did has given him a chance at another 30 years of life. I hope.”
- With files from Mark McAllister