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BERKELEY TOWNSHIP, NJ (AP) — A young lifeguard was killed and seven other people, including three other lifeguards, were injured when lightning struck a Jersey Shore beach Monday afternoon, authorities said.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy confirmed that a lifeguard in Berkeley Township was killed in the afternoon.
It marked the second death from a young lifeguard on the Jersey Shore in just over a week.
Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy said the others were taken to hospitals with injuries not considered life-threatening.
“Our hearts are with the family and friends of the young lifeguard who died in today’s terrible lightning strike on the beach in Berkeley Township, and we pray for a full recovery for the injured,” wrote Murphy, the state’s Democratic governor. , on Twitter. “I have spoken with Mayor Carmen Amato and offered the full support and assistance of our administration during this difficult time.”
Amato said his township’s beaches will be closed Tuesday through Thursday as crisis counselors are available for beach staff and lifeguards. Four of those affected were lifeguards and four others were beachgoers.
“This is a tragic and heartbreaking day for our city and the entire Jersey Shore,” Amato said in a statement. “This young person was there every day to protect the lives of others. Our lifeguards, like so many along the coast, develop special bonds with our community over the summer, adding to this loss.
“On behalf of myself and our entire community, I extend our deepest and most sincere condolences to the family and friends of this young man,” he said.
The identities of the lifeguard who died, as well as the others injured by the lightning strike, were not immediately released.
A handwritten note in purple ink was left with flowers at the foot of a lifeguard post Monday night.
“We were at the beach today and are grateful for what you have done for us by keeping us safe on the beach,” the note read. “We’re sorry for your loss.”
Police were called at 4:31 p.m. to a beach on 21st Avenue in Berkeley Township, near the entrance to Island Beach State Park, just south of Seaside Park.
Pete Tortorelli was operating an outdoor bar a stone’s throw from the beach when, he said, lightning struck seemingly out of nowhere.
“It seemed 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 police car in this town was screaming down the street.”
Thomas Taberoni was at a house on the beach 90 meters from the lifeguard station and noticed that it was starting to get cloudy when he heard the loudest noise he had ever heard.
“Have you ever been to an air show when they broke the sound barrier with that bang and you weren’t prepared for it?” he asked. “This was about 100 times louder than that.”
Lynda McHugh had just left the beach when she saw two large lightning bolts coming straight down. Within moments, people were running up the slope from the beach and down the wooden stairs to get to safety.
Police said in a Facebook post that they were investigating reports of lightning strikes in the township and would release more information as soon as it became available.
A police coordinator said she could not release any information other than what the department posted on Facebook. Messages have been left for police commanders.
On August 20, 16-year-old lifeguard Norman Inferrera III died a day after an accident in Cape May, on the southern tip of New Jersey. A lifeboat he was rowing was hit by a wave and capsized, knocking him unconscious, authorities said.
And on August 12, a 13-year-old boy died after being struck by lightning on Orchard Beach in the Bronx in New York City. Carlos Ramos was among a group of people who gathered on the beach and were struck by lightning during a fast-moving storm. Six others were also injured in that lightning strike.
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