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How Dr. Martens boots may have saved White House lightning strike survivor

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The lone survivor of the lightning strike that killed three people outside the White House was saved by quick-thinking Secret Service agents — and her Dr. Martens boots, according to her mom.

Californian student Amber Escudero-Kontostathis was struck last Thursday while raising money in Washington, DC, for refugees — even though it was her 28th birthday.

While three others were killed in the strike — including a fellow young Californian — Escudero-Kontostathis was revived by agents who raced to the scene with a defibrillator, her mom, Julie Escudero, told the Ventura County Star.

“The Secret Service men saved her,” Escudero said. “I’ve been trying to find out their names so I can personally thank them. They revived her.”

Amber Escudero-Kontostathis was the lone survivor of four hit by lightning outside the White House last Thursday — her 28th birthday.
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In a series of emotional Facebook updates, Escudero detailed how doctors believe the lightning that struck her daughter “went through her toes and out her left arm.”

That likely meant her daughter was saved by the thick rubber “Airwair” soles on Dr. Martens’ boots absorbing some of the impact, her mom speculated.

Escudero-Kontostathis — who was with her husband, Achilles, in DC — has already left intensive care and taken her first steps unaided, said her mom, who flew from California to be by her daughter’s side.

“The trauma doctor came up [Friday] and said she’s an ‘absolute miracle,’” her mom told the local outlet.

Lightning hits at foot of White House, killing three and injuring "miracle" survivor Amber Escudero-Kontostathis.
Amber Escudero-Kontostathis was the lone survivor of four hit by lightning that was caught on camera striking at the foot of the White House last Thursday
REUTERS

In her Facebook posts, Escudero also detailed how her daughter “is literally blowing all the doctors away with the progress her body is making.”

Still, she is suffering “unbearable” pain from a large burn on her stomach that makes it feel like it’s “on fire” — and is suffering crushing “survivor’s guilt” after learning the three others hit all died, her mom said.

Escudero-Kontostathis had a Monday meeting scheduled with a trauma counselor. 

And she has also “made the connection to the other 3 wonderful people who passed,” her mom said, referring to bank VP Brooks Lambertson, 29, as well as James Mueller, 76, and Donna Mueller, 75, childhood sweethearts from Wisconsin celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary.

Donna Mueller, 75, and James Mueller, 76.
The three killed included James Mueller, 76, and Donna Mueller, 75, childhood sweethearts from Wisconsin celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary
Facebook/WISN 12 NEWS

“She wants to reach out to their families,” her mom said Monday. “She cares so much for others, it will be hard for her.”

Escudero-Kontostathis is also anxious about missing the start of her masters-degree course at John Hopkins at the end of this month.

Escudero said she was “beyond grateful and humbled” that friends had started a GoFundMe that as of Monday afternoon had raised more than $40,000 to help with medical costs.

“I literally fell to my knees when I saw the GoFundMe page. I truly have no words!” she said.

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Georgia fugitive gets himself arrested after commenting on ‘most wanted’ post

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This is not a list most would ask to be on.

A Georgia man assisted law enforcement in his arrest after he commented on the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page.

When the sheriff’s department, located east of Atlanta, released their “Most Wanted List” for November, Christopher Spaulding appeared offended by the omission.

“How about me” Spaulding asked through his personal Facebook account.

The department was happy to reply on Thursday, saying, “you are correct you have two warrants, we are on the way.” 

Later on Thursday, Rockdale police shared an update to the bizarre exchange. Spaulding, wearing a red Georgia Bulldogs hoodie and hat, was apprehended and handcuffed.

The 40-year-old had two warrants for Felony Violation of Probation, according to police.

The Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office was happy to add Spaulding to the list.
Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office / Facebook

“We appreciate you for your assistance in your capture!” the department said in the post.

After Spaulding was taken into custody, the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office reminded wanted fugitives that being left off the “Most Wanted List” isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card.

“Our Top 10 is compiled based off of the severity of the charges only. By not being on this list does not mean our Fugitive Unit is not looking for you if you have an active warrant.”

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Your Holiday Rituals

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“Our holiday ritual involves stretching buñuelos over cheesecloth on our bent knee. We use a secret family recipe that my older sister has yet to share. Everyone is involved in an assembly line according to expertise, mixing, forming testales, rolling out perfectly round tortillas, stretching, then frying to a golden color!” — Elma Cadena, San Antonio, Texas

“My family and I burn a yule log on the winter solstice. We find a weirdly shaped or very large hunk of wood, decorate it with twigs, berries, foliage and other items as we see fit, then we fasten a note or make a marking on the log indicating some intention we have for the coming year.” — Candace Abraham, Newport, Wash.

“I carry around one $100 bill to tip someone randomly. I go about my business and when I find that person who needs a pick-me-up, I plant the big bill as I normally would: in the hand of the hair dresser, jar at coffee shop, billfold for server. And don’t stick around for the reaction. Let them enjoy their surprise privately!” — Jackie Shapiro Brooker, Greenville, S.C.

“My husband’s family’s 20-plus-year tradition of a Christmas Eve dinner we call ‘mishy mashy.’ There is one rule: Every person must bring or make one food item that they want to eat. Anything is game, and no judgment allowed. Soft pretzels? Yum! Oyster soup? OK! Cheese shaped like reindeer that you just bought? Looks good!” — Jen Bowerman, Traverse City, Mich.

“When I was in my early 20s, we lost my 22-year-old brother to cancer just before Christmas. As a means of coping, my mom and I took a class where we constructed a gingerbread house completely from scratch. Over 40 years later, I continue to make one every Christmas season with my daughters.” — Beth Q. Reynolds, Hopkinton, Mass.

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US woman killed when ‘rogue wave’ strikes Antarctic cruise ship

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An American woman died and four other passengers were injured when a “rogue wave” hit a Viking cruise ship sailing near the southernmost tip of South America on an Antarctic cruise, the company said Thursday. 

The unidentified 62-year-old woman was hit by broken glass when the wave broke cabin windows on the Viking Polaris ship late Tuesday during a storm, Argentine authorities said. The ship suffered limited damage and arrived in Ushuaia, 1,926 miles south of Buenos Aires, the next day.

“It is with great sadness that we confirmed a guest passed away following the incident,” Viking said in a statement. “We have notified the guest’s family and shared our deepest sympathies.”

The four passengers injured were treated onboard the ship by a doctor and medical staff for non-life-threatening injuries, the company said. 

The ship itself sustained “limited damage,” Viking said. 

“We are investigating the facts surrounding this incident and will offer our support to the relevant authorities,” the company said. “Our focus remains on the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew, and we are working directly with them to arrange return travel.”

Damage is seen on the bottom windows of the Viking Polaris ship after a wave hit it on Thursday.
AFP via Getty Images

Rogue waves, also known as “extreme storm waves” by scientists, are greater than twice the size of surrounding waves and often come unexpectedly from directions other than prevailing wind and waves, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Suzie Gooding, who was on the ship when the incident happened, told WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina, that it felt like the ship had struck an iceberg.

“Everything was fine until the rogue wave hit, and it was just sudden. Shocking,” she said. “We didn’t know if we should get our gear ready for abandoning ship.”

Viking said it has canceled the ship’s next scheduled departure, the Antarctic Explorer, slated to sail from Dec. 5-17. The Viking Polaris, a vessel that has luxury facilities and was built in 2022, has a capacity for 378 passengers and 256 crew members.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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