BERKELEY, NJ – A 19-year-old lifeguard is dead and seven other people were injured Monday after being struck by lightning on a New Jersey beach.
The incident occurred on the beach on 21st Avenue in South Seaside Park, according to Ocean County officials.
The victims were not identified on Monday night. However, the Berkeley Township Police Department said in a statement that of the seven injured, three were also lifeguards.
All survivors were treated in nearby hospitals, the police said. Most of the victims appeared to have relatively minor injuries such as headaches and dizziness, according to the authorities.
Governor Phil Murphy issued a statement shortly after 7 p.m.
“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the young lifeguard who was killed by the terrible lightning strike on Berkeley Township Beach today, and we pray for the full recovery of those injured,” said Murphy.
“This is a tragic and heartbreaking day for our city and the entire Jersey coast,” said Berkeley Mayor Carmen F. Amato. “This young person was out there every day protecting the lives of others. Our lifeguard teams, like so many along the coast, develop special connections with our community throughout the summer, making this loss even greater. On my behalf and on behalf of our entire community, I offer my deepest and most sincere 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., 21st Avenue beach – known as White Sands Beach – was eerily deserted, with nearly a dozen wicker beach chairs and other personal items lying on the sand around a lifeguard stand that was on the page has been turned.
The storm had risen as fast as it came, leaving a rainbow on the sea, the arc of which seemed to stretch the length of South Seaside Park on the horizon.
Neighbors said the lightning strike was accompanied by some of the loudest claps of thunder they had ever heard in their life.
Kathy Gill, 61, who lives two blocks from the beach, took her dog to the beach to deal with the aftermath.
“This is my beach, this is my beach,” said Gill. “I heard the big bang or a couple of big bangs … it’s just horrible, it was horrific. … My house shook, it was so loud. … And then, shortly afterwards, the fire engines drove by and I thought: ‘Oh my God, something must have happened.’ “
The death was the second in two weeks that a lifeguard was involved on the shore.
On August 19, 16-year-old Norman Inferrera, who was a lifeguard on his first summer, was rowing a surf boat off the coast of Cape May when the boat was overturned in a wave and knocked him unconscious. He died the following night at the Cooper University Medial Center in Camden.
Berkeley beaches are closed to swimmers through Thursday as all municipal lifeguards and other beach staff are free. Crisis advisors should be made available, the police said.
The beaches remain open to sun worshipers.
Contact Erik Larsen by email at [email protected]