Lightning strike kills lifeguard, injures 7 others

A 19-year-old lifeguard was killed by lightning on a beach in Ocean County, New Jersey.

The Berkeley Township Police Department identified the dead lifeguard as Keith Pinto of Toms River.

keith pinto lifeguard

Pinto was fatally struck by a bolt of lightning around 4:35 p.m. Monday while on duty at the White Sands Beach in the area of 21st Avenue beach in South Seaside Park.

The Berkeley Township Police Department said four lifeguards, including Pinto, and four beachgoers were “either struck or were injured by the residual lightning strike.”

Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy said the injuries to the other seven victims were not considered life-threatening.

“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.

“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,” wrote Chase Vander Vliet, who organized a fundraiser for Pinto’s family.

“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,” Vliet wrote.

Amato said beaches will be closed to swimmers Tuesday through Thursday as beach staff and lifeguards will be off.

Crisis counselors will be made available for the beach staff and lifeguards.

Pinto is the second teenage lifeguard to die on duty at the Jersey shore in August. Earlier in the month, Norman V. Inferrera III, 16, of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, died from injuries sustained after he was knocked unconscious when the patrol boat he was rowing in the ocean got broadsided by a wave and flipped over.

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