Man Survives Exploding Tree After Lightning Strike

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The power of Mother Nature hit very close to home for a young man this past weekend.

Brandon Rutter, 20, was enjoying a weekend of camping with family and friends at Mohican State Park near Loudonville.

It was about noon on Saturday, a gentle rain was falling, and they were just finishing up breakfast outside their camper.

But then - all of a sudden - their world changed in an instant.

And for Brandon, it was a moment that changed his life forever.

"I had no idea what was happening, it was nothing but fear." Brandon said. "Out of nowhere, lightning just struck this tree."

First, he was blinded by a fireball of light.

"My vision went white, just pure white,” he said.  “I couldn't see nothing."

In the same instant, he heard a loud boom as the tree exploded around him and a half dozen other family members sitting under a canopy.

Brandon remembers when the first splintered piece of flying wood, more like shrapnel, hit him in the head, knocking him flat to the ground.

"I thought everything was over," he said.

"It was definitely worse than the battlefield," said Michael Rutter, Brandon’s father, sitting by Brandon’s bedside at Grant Medical Center in Columbus.

The elder Rutter is an Army veteran.  

He was in the family camper when the lightning hit.

But in seconds, he was flying out the door to help.

"I heard screaming and crying," Michael said.

Then he found Brandon, buried in broken tree limbs.

"His eyes were wide open, and I thought he was dead," Michael said.  "At one point, Brandon looked at me and said ‘I'm scared, Dad,’ and I said, ‘I'm going to do everything I can to get you help.’"

Brandon suffered four skull fractures, bleeding in the brain and a neck injury.

Surgeons used a titanium plate to put his shattered bones back together.

"How could you call it anything short of a miracle,” Brandon added.  “Every doctor's told me I'm lucky to be where I am."

Lucky to be able to talk about this changing moment in his life, that he will never take for granted again.

"After what I've just gone through, I can't say tomorrow is a guarantee,” Brandon said.  “You just got to live it up while you can."

Ironically, Brandon was supposed to start working at a lumber company this week.

That job is on hold as he recovers in the hospital.

His family says he should be getting out within the next two weeks, and doctors are giving him a good prognosis.

“It’s the most terrifying thing I ever went through,” Brandon said.  “It struck the fear of God in me. I never want to experience this again.”