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Lifeguard Struck By Lightning Dies; 7 More Injured

Tabatha Wethal

A lifeguard in New Jersey was struck by lightning and died this week. He was one of eight people who were struck or injured by the residual lightning strike, officials said.

Keith Pinto, 19, of Toms River was struck by lighting around 4:35 p.m. Monday in the area of 21st Avenue beach in South Seaside Park, according to a WPVI-TV report.

The Berkeley Township Police Department said three other lifeguards and four beachgoers were hurt. Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy said their injuries are not considered life threatening.

Pinto’s siblings remembered their brother, saying he was attending Ocean County College to earn a degree before he planned to go into the Marines. Pinto’s twin brother Kevin is also a lifeguard, and the two worked side-by-side at the beach.

"We would drive together, drive home together, go out to lunch together, pretty much everything together,” Kevin Pinto said. “So now it's just crazy to see he's not here anymore."

Hundreds of candles were lit on the beach at an oceanside vigil Tuesday night for the 19-year-old lifeguard.

Thomas Taberoni was at a beachfront house 100 yards away from the lifeguard stand when he heard a loud noise.

"Have you ever been to an air show when they break the sound barrier with that boom and you weren't prepared for it?" he asked. "This was like 100 times louder than that."

Meteorologist David Murphy said lightning can travel dozens of miles from the storm -- and sideways.

"Lightning can travel laterally away from a thunderstorm and it can actually go 12,13,14 miles or more. Maybe even 20, 25, and that's farther than the sound of thunder travels," Murphy said.

The township beaches are closed for swimming through Thursday as staff mourn.

The identities of the seven others injured by the lightning strike have not been released.

According to the National Lightning Safety Council, Monday's tragedy was the ninth known lightning fatality of the year in the U.S. and the second in New Jersey. A 70-year-old Florence man was struck and killed by lightning while on a golf course at the Burlington Country Club in Westampton Township in June, the news station reported.

This is the second young New Jersey lifeguard who has died in recent weeks. On Aug. 19, rookie Cape May lifeguard Norman Inferrera was rowing a lifeguard boat when a wave knocked him unconscious. He died at the hospital days later.

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