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Family of woman struck by lightning at Grand Canyon thanks rescuer

 Vannie McSoley
Posted at 3:27 PM, Jul 26, 2021

The family of a young woman struck by lightning last week got the chance to thank one of the people who helped save her life.

"Running towards danger when others were running away is a super commendable thing and I will be forever grateful for you," said Cara McSoley fighting back tears as she spoke to Kenton Irvine over Zoom Monday.

It's a fitting and emotional reunion after tragedy struck at the Grand Canyon last Tuesday.

"She's always been way cooler than me, she lived in Hawaii, she just has that itch for adventure," said Cara.

Cara's sister Evangeline, or Vanni as her friends call her, had one of those spirits.

"Now she does the mountain mule rides around the Grand Canyon," said Cara.

Vanni took up the new job after moving to Arizona from Rhode Island in April. Cara says Vanni fell in love with her new surroundings immediately.

"She'd post like Instagrams of her just casually on a mule looking over the canyon dressed like a cowgirl," said Cara. "I'm like, 'ok, very cool sis, while I'm sweating and scooping up manure at our ranch here.'"

Last week, monsoon storms suddenly moved into those beautiful canyons.

Vanni, who was standing near the Bright Angel Trail Head, was suddenly struck by lightning.

"Helping somebody when you have the ability to help is something everybody should do," said Irvine, who was visiting the Grand Canyon that day with his family.

On that day, Irvine lived up to those words.

He and another man raced to Vanni's side. She wasn't breathing and was unconscious. Irvine immediately began CPR.

"Nobody had heard thunder, nobody had seen lightning until it hit her," said Cara.

Kenton's five children watched as their dad helped bring Vanni back to life. She's now recovering in the hospital with no recollection of the day but making sure a message is passed along to the people who stuck by her side.

"Like dads are already our heroes and you like really got to be there for your kids and I just think that's super beautiful," said Cara. "You'll definitely be getting a lot more Christmas cards this year."