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‘Not Gonna Waste My Second Chance': Woman Who Survived DC Lightning Strike Shares Story

Amber Escudero-Kontostathis was one of four people hurt when lightning struck a tree near the White House during a powerful storm in Washington, D.C.

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The only person to survive after a bolt of lightning struck four people near the White House in Washington, D.C., earlier this month is sharing her story.

Just two weeks ago, doctors weren’t sure if Amber Escudero-Kontostathis would survive the lightning strike.

But they now say she is making big strides in her recovery.

"I’m not sure why I’m the one that pulled through, but I’m definitely grateful and I’m not gonna waste my second chance at life," Escudero-Kontostathis said.

The only person to survive after a bolt of lightning struck four people near the White House in Washington, D.C., earlier this month is sharing her story. Just two weeks ago, doctors weren’t sure if Amber Escudero-Kontostathis would survive the lightning strike.

On the night of Aug. 4, she was standing near the White House trying to raise money for refugees when a storm popped up in the area.

She and three others took shelter under a tree in Lafayette Square.

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Moments later, lightning struck the tree, injuring her and the others.

James and Donna Mueller were visiting D.C. from Wisconsin to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Brooks Lambertson, of California, was visiting D.C. for work. All three of them died from their injuries.

A couple killed when lightning struck Thursday near the White House were in town celebrating their 56th anniversary. News4’s Walter Morris spoke to their niece.

"It breaks my heart. I think about it every day. I think about the families that don’t have their loved ones there. It’s just tough. Gonna be working through that for a long time," she said.

Escudero-Kontostathis said bystanders likely saved her life. Secret Service agents and nurses who happened to be there on vacation all rushed to do CPR and re-start her heart.

It’s what kept her alive long enough to make it to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, the only burn center in the D.C. area.

"What she went through is so rare and so often not survived, there’s no textbook chapter about what to expect after you’ve been struck by lightning," said Dr. Taryn Travis, a burn surgeon for MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Escudero-Kontostathis' burns are starting to heal, but she said she’s still in constant pain.

"Like 10,000 grains of sand moving through a single pore, and it’s happening through my whole body from here down. That’s the worst of it at night," she said.

News4's Mauricio Casillas spoke to the victim's father and heard from his employer.

Through the pain, she’s held tight to a purpose.

Escudero-Kontostathis said she wants to get back to her work with the International Rescue Committee.

"I just want to be out there advocating for people that aren’t as lucky as I am and getting so much attention and treatment and help," she said.

She said she plans to get a master’s degree in international relations at Johns Hopkins University.

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