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Intern Returns To Zoo After Being Struck By Lightning

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Haley Embleton
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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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RISING SUN, Md. (WJZ) — Beating the odds–twice. That’s what happened to a college student interning at a zoo in Cecil County.

Alex DeMetrick reports Haley Embleton was struck by lightning and survived.

Nineteen-year-old Haley Embleton is an intern at the Plumpton Park Zoo in Cecil County. Studying to be a veterinarian, it’s her dream job–interrupted by a nightmare.

Last June, she was struck by lightning.

“It was the first lightning bolt of the storm. It moved in very quickly,” said Cheryl Elliott.

Haley and another intern rushed under a cedar tree.

“I was already scared. My friend thought I was going to pass out. Actually, when I was struck, she thought I had passed out because I was scared but no, I got struck,” Haley said.

The bolt gouged the tree. Her friend brought help from two others on the zoo staff who rushed up on a golf cart.

“When I found her on the ground, she was breathing. She did have a pulse but she wasn’t conscious and she was gasping for air,” said zoo groundskeeper Theodore Hartner.

“We all just went back up to the reptile house and laid her down on the floor and we were monitoring her. She did lose her vitals and then just went into CPR,” said zoo manager Michelle Elliott.

“We had two people doing CPR but we had other staff members on the phone. We had other staff members running to gates to bring in the medics and it was a team effort,” Elliott said.

It’s an effort that saved Haley’s life–although she doesn’t remember it.

“I guess waking up in a hospital. I don’t remember much; I just remember being told the story,” Haley said.

It took one month to get back to the zoo after being in a coma and then speech and physical therapy. There are still memory issues but the animals help.

“We’re glad to be able to help her this way. We’re so glad that she’s here with us,” Elliot said.

Haley may have been unconscious throughout her ordeal but that in no way diminishes her feelings now.

“Oh, I’m very thankful for them. I actually just love them all. I’m very happy to be here; I’m glad they let me come back,” she said.

Zoo staff are also helping in other ways. The Plumpton Park Zoo’s Facebook page is raising donations for Haley to return to college. You can donate by clicking here.

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