Registered nurse Jessie Racicot, 34, and her husband Frank Frontado, a game warden with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, were injured in a lightning strike accident west of Augusta on June 18.
Kerrie Racicot, Jessie’s sister, on Monday said the couple, who were married last year in Ronan, moved to Choteau in December 2021, after buying a small property on Stenson Lane.
Jessie works in Great Falls as an intensive care unit nurse for Benefis Health System. She and her husband were both off work on Saturday and decided to go kayaking and fishing on a sunny warm day with friends on Willow Creek Reservoir west of Augusta.
Kerrie said the group left the reservoir when a thunderstorm and rain moved into the area. They were on their way back home in two vehicles, with Racicot and Frontado in the first vehicle, and their friend following them in another vehicle.
Kerrie said they stopped noticed that their kayak had come loose, so they were along the road in a dip between two hills and got out of the truck to secure the straps on the kayak. It was raining, she said, but there was no visible thunder or lightning.
Their friends had also stopped and one of them was walking towards the couple when a lightning bolt struck the truck, blasting Frank and Jessie back from the truck and knocking the friend off his feet.
Kerrie said Jessie was violently flung nearly six feet and struck her head on rocks along the edge of the road, sustaining a traumatic brain injury. She said the lightning bolt stopped Jessie’s heart and her friend, also a nurse, immediately began life-saving chest compressions and was able to get her breathing again.
Out of cell phone service, they were able to access the OnStar emergency support system in Jessie and Frank’s pickup to call for help.
The Teton County Sheriff’s reported that Lewis and Clark County dispatch requested the Fairfield ambulance to assist with the two accident victims at 2:30 pm Kerrie said emergency responders were able to direct a life flight ambulance to the scene and the air ambulance took both Jessie and Frank to Benefis Health System in Great Falls.
Kerrie said Frank was treated for contact burn wounds and released so that he could travel with Jessie, who was airlifted to the University of Utah hospital in Salt Lake City on Saturday.
As of Monday, Kerrie said, Jessie remains in critical condition in the ICU, where her head injury is the main concern though she also will need treatment for burns on her chest and groin areas. “She is really receiving amazing care,” her sister said.
A GoFundMe page is being hosted by Jessie’s colleagues at Benefis with the support of her family. The GoFundMe organizers — nurse Bethany Evans of Fairfield along with Kerrie Racicot and her mom, Anita Noble, wrote, “We want to show Jessie and her husband Frank and their family some love and support as they face the unthinkable. These funds will go to Jessie and Frank to help ease the financial burden that comes with these sorts of tragedies.”
As of Monday afternoon, there had been 288 donations and $34,271 had been raised of the $50,000 goal.
For those wishing to donate, the page can be found under “Love for Jessie.”
Jessie and Frank are slated to celebrate their first wedding anniversary on July 10, Kerrie said. Jessie is from Reno, Nevada, and Frank has lived most of his life in Montana. They met while working as wranglers and guides for the Crazy Mountain Ranch outside of Livingston in 2015.