BERKELEY, NJ – A 19-year-old lifeguard died and seven other people were injured Monday after being struck by lightning on a beach in New Jersey.
The incident happened on the 21st Avenue waterfront in the South Seaside Park section, according to Ocean County officials.
The victims were not identified Monday evening. However, the Berkeley Township Police Department said in a statement that of the seven injured, three were also township rescuers.
All survivors were being treated at hospitals in the area, police said. Most of the victims appeared to have relatively minor injuries, such as headaches and dizziness, authorities said.
Governor Phil Murphy issued a statement shortly after 7 p.m.
“Our hearts are with the family and friends of the young rescuer killed in today’s horrific lightning strike on the beach in Berkeley Township, and we pray for a full recovery of those injured,” said Murphy.
“This is a tragic and heartbreaking day for our city and the entire Jersey Shore,” said Berkeley Mayor Carmen F. Amato. “This youngster was there every day to protect the lives of others. Our lifeguard teams, like so many others along the shore, develop special bonds with our community throughout the summer, making this loss even greater. On behalf of myself and our entire community, I offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of this young man.
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More than an hour after the lightning strike at around 4:35 p.m., the 21st Avenue waterfront – known as White Sands Beach – was strangely desolate, with nearly a dozen beach chairs and other personal effects left on the sand around a lifeguard station which had been overturned on its side.
The storm had moved as quickly as it came and left behind a rainbow at sea, the arc of which seemed to extend the length of South Seaside Park along the horizon.
Neighbors said the lightning was accompanied by some of the loudest thunderclaps they had ever heard in their lives.
Kathy Gill, 61, who lives two blocks from the beach, has come down to the waterfront with her dog to examine the aftermath.
“This is my beach, this is my beach,” said Gill. “I heard the big bang, or some big bangs… it’s just awful, it was awful. … My house shook, it was so strong. … And soon after that the fire trucks started to pass and I was like, “Oh my God, something must have hit. “
This is the second death in two weeks involving a lifeguard in Shore.
On August 19, 16-year-old Norman Inferrera, in his first summer working as a lifeguard, was rowing a surf boat off the coast of Cape May when the vessel was hit by a wave and overturned, causing it to faint. He died at the Cooper University Medial Center in Camden the following night.
Berkeley beaches will be closed to swimmers until Thursday as all municipal lifeguards and other beach staff will be absent. Crisis counselors were to be made available, police said.
The beaches will remain open to swimmers.
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