It happened in the area of 21st Avenue Beach in South Seaside Park. A line of storms moved through South Jersey on Monday evening, bringing frequent lightning, heavy downpours and gusty winds.
“The lifeguards screamed ‘RUN!’ and everybody screamed, running off the beach, said Jackie Verderosa.
Running for their lives, beachgoers left their belongings behind. Then, lifeguards realized one of their own was down in the sand.
“And the lifeguard was surrounded. Around eight police cars came down the street – they surrounded the boy, and they were doing the best they could,” said Diane Wilkinson.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, and by the time they made it to the hospital, there was nothing for doctors to do.
“It was pretty devastating – it was just a tragedy. A tragedy second to none,” said Vince Ruffolo.
First responders treated eight people from the lightning bolt – four of them were lifeguards, including the one who did not survive. Beachgoers say he was ‘barely 20 years old.’
All the victims were taken to Community Medical Center in Toms River.
Governor Murphy released a statement on Monday evening saying,
“Our hearts are with the family and friends of the young lifeguard killed by today’s horrific lightning strike on the beach in Berkeley Township, and we pray for a full recovery for those injured. I’ve spoken to Mayor Carmen Amato and offered the full support and assistance of our administration during this difficult time.“
It marked the second death of a young lifeguard at the Jersey Shore in a little over a week.
Berkeley Township’s beaches will be closed for swimming on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but will be open for sunbathing. Beach staff and lifeguards will be off, and crisis counselors will be available for beach staff employees.
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