Keith Pinto 19 year old lifeguard killed, 7 others injured by lightning strike at South Seaside Park, NJ in un-expected change of weather along Berkely Township beach.
A 19-year-old lifeguard was killed along with seven other people injured after they were struck by lightning along the Jersey Shore on Monday afternoon.
The incident happened at the 21st Avenue Beach in the South Seaside Park section of Berkeley Township. Witnesses told of conditions initially being clear and sunny, leaving no signs that a dangerous storm was moving in, leaving beach goers no time to take cover.
Police responded to the scene at around 4:35 p.m. to find eight people injured, including four lifeguards.
Berkeley Township lifeguard Keith Pinto was killed. The other victims were all treated at area hospitals. Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy said the injuries to the seven victims were not considered life-threatening according to WPVI.
At the time of the incident, Pinto of Tom River was sitting several feet from the ground in a lifeguard chair.
An unexpected cluster of thunderstorms approached the state’s coastline in the afternoon, according to Nick Carr, a forecaster from the National Weather Service.
Even if lightning was in the area, it would have not triggered any severe thunderstorm warnings or advisories as this would require fierce winds or hail in the forecast — which was not seen during the time of the strike, according to Carr, APP reported.
Friends told CBS2, Pinto was a young man who was an athlete who ran track at High School North. They described him as a good man who worked at the beach every day.
‘He was never upset or afraid of anything. He always had a good time,’ friend Abby Spurling told CBS2.
‘…out there every day protecting the lives of others’
‘It’s heartbreaking because someone from our graduating class is gone and he can’t experience life with the rest of us,’ friend Giana Verlangieri told CBS2.
Vince Ruffolo, a witness at the beach told CBS2 that the ‘lightning strike was like a bomb going off.’
‘This young person was out there every day protecting the lives of others. Our lifeguard teams, like so many along the shore, develop special connections with our community throughout the summer, which makes this loss even greater,’ said Berkeley Township Mayor Carmen Amato.
An online fundraiser started to cover funeral expenses for the Berkely Township lifeguard killed by lightning had by Tuesday afternoon raised $26,858.
Officials say Berkeley Township’s oceans will be closed for swimming Tuesday through Thursday as staff and lifeguards will be off. Grief counselors will be available.
According to the National Lightning Safety Council, Monday’s tragedy was the ninth known lightning fatality of the year in the U.S. and the second in New Jersey.