Father: Please pray for lightning strike victim - FOX 13 News

Father: Please pray for lightning strike victim

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File image of Jesse Watlington File image of Jesse Watlington
TAMPA (FOX 13) -

A young Southwest Florida boy is in critical condition at a Tampa Hospital after being struck by lightning. It was a direct hit, and at one point, he stopped breathing. His father wanted to do this interview for one reason: To ask for prayers. As many prayers as he can get for his young son.

Charles Watlington thought his son, Jesse, was safe at South Florida Christian Academy in Fort Myers on Wednesday afternoon.

"Little did I know, at that exact moment, my 11-year-old son was struck dead in the chest with a lightning bolt. It entered (his chest) and exited out of his heel on his foot," he said.

Now the middle-schooler, known for his big smile and small size compared to the other football players, is in critical condition.

"It's a miracle that he's alive right now," Charles said.

The boy was struck on his way to football practice.

"They were just being released from their classroom setting and grabbing their practice gear and were making a single-file run out to the field," recalled Pastor Richard Powell.

Paramedics rushed Watlington to a local hospital where they were able to bring the boy back to life through CPR. He needed more care.

"They got him to the hospital and then he was airlifted here to Tampa," Watlington continued.

Tampa General treats lightning strikes from across the region.

"There are upward of 1,000 fatal lightning strikes in this country and probably four times as many non-life-threatening," said Dr. Kevin Farquharson.

The least damaging occur when you're simply near a strike -- when, for example, a tree takes the main jolt.

"There's thermal injury that can occur, and of course the noise -- ruptured eardrums. But since the energy isn't really going through the body, it doesn't have such severe dramatic effects and these are the people who generally do very well or in some cases don't get admitted," Farquharson said.

Watlington's father says his son wasn't so lucky. Jesse is fighting, but is in a coma, unable to speak.

His father is speaking for him with one request.

"I believe in miracles and that's why I'm asking everyone to plea pray for Jesse," he asked.

A prayer vigil was held for Jesse on Thursday in Fort Myers. His father says he's heard of churches as far away as Washington State have heard about his injury and have added him to their prayer lists.

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