'Like a bomb': Teen lifeguard killed by lightning strike

·4-min read

A young lifeguard was killed and another seven people were injured after a lightning strike at a beach on Monday.

Berkeley Township Police Department in New Jersey, US, responded to a report of a lightning strike at a beach on the Jersey Shore at around 4.35pm.

The strike happened at the 21st Avenue beach, near the entrance gates to Island Beach State Park, just south of Seaside Park.

"It was determined that a total of eight victims, four of which were lifeguards, were reported to have been either struck, or were injured from the residual lightning strike," a police statement said.

Officers confirmed lifeguard Keith Pinto, 19, succumbed to his injuries, while the other seven victims were treated for their injuries at surrounding hospitals.

Three other lifeguards were injured by the strike, one of which temporarily lost hearing in one ear, though they have since regained it.

Lifeguard Keith Pinto.
Lifeguard Keith Pinto was killed by a lightning strike at a New Jersey beach on Monday. Source: GoFundMe

On Tuesday, friends and fellow lifeguards hugged and placed flowers at the base of the lifeguard stand where Mr Pinto was killed.

Michael Cordiano, who worked with Mr Pinto, said his friend was a "great kid, really funny".

“He never failed to bring a smile to the room; he was always the life of the party,” Mr Cordiano said, the Associated Press reports. 

“He was a great partner on the beach. He took it really seriously. He always had the people in the water’s safety (in mind). He knew he had to protect them; that was his job and he did a good job at it. It almost feels unreal; I was just with him a couple of days ago.”

Michael Cordiano, a lifeguard in Berkeley Township, lays flowers on Tuesday at the base of a lifeguard stand.
Michael Cordiano, a lifeguard in Berkeley Township, lays flowers on Tuesday at the base of a lifeguard stand on the beach where Keith Pinto was killed a day earlier. Source: Associated Press

Mayor closes beaches after lifeguard killed

Mayor of Berkeley Township, Carmen Amato, said beaches in the township would be closed Tuesday through to Thursday and counsellors would be available to staff and lifeguards.

A GoFundMe set up in Mr Pinto's name has raised over $43,929 ($A60,069) so far.

"Words cannot describe how so many of us are feeling right now. We lost a special guy tonight, one who was so close and meant so much to so many people," the GoFundMe reads.

"A complete tragedy that nobody would have ever expected to happen. It would be impossible to get it all into words how much our friend meant to us but we all know how amazing he was. 

"Keith has left behind an overwhelming amount of amazing memories that will live in our hearts forever."

You can donate to the GoFundMe here.

Beachgoers recall horror moment lightning struck

Pete Tortorelli was tending an outdoor bar a block away from the beach when, he said, lightning struck seemingly out of nowhere on Monday afternoon.

“It looked a little cloudy in one direction but clear as anything in the other direction, and it was the first lightning of the day,” he said. 

“Literally two minutes after I saw the lightning, every cop car in this town was screaming down the street.”

Christine Gailey-Glenn was with her family at the beach, about 60 metres from the lifeguard tower, when they observed the dark clouds and one of her sisters heard thunder, The New York Times reported.

The lightning struck suddenly as the family was packing up their belongings. Ms Gailey-Glenn lost consciousness for a few seconds. She and several members of her family were hit by residual lightning.

Friends of Keith Pinto gather at the beach.
Friends of Keith Pinto gather at the beach where he worked. Source: AP

“It was like a bomb,” Ms Gailey-Glenn told The New York Times. 

“I felt this excruciating pain in my head, and crackling.”

She and her husband were helping their son, who could "barely walk" after the strike, off the beach when they saw people rushing to the lifeguard tower.

Thomas Taberoni was at his home about 90 metres away from the lifeguard tower when the lightning struck.

“Have you ever been to an air show when they break the sound barrier with that boom and you weren’t prepared for it? This was like 100 times louder than that,” he said speaking of the noise.

With the Associated Press.

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