More details emerged regarding the tragic lightning strike that claimed the life of a South Seaside Park lifeguard and injured numerous others – including additional members of the guard squad.
Berkeley Township police issued a statement adding new details to previous reports, stating that a total of eight people were injured in the strike, including the male lifeguard, reportedly 19-years-old, who succumbed to his injuries after medics administered both CPR and shocks from a defibrillator. Police, in the statement, said they were called to the 21st Avenue beach at 4:35 p.m. after 911 callers reporters a person being struck by lightning. The skies were generally overcast at the time, however rainfall was mainly located west of Barnegat Bay.
It was determined by investigators that a total of eight victims, four of whom were lifeguards, were reported to have been either struck or were injured from a residual lightning strike. The victims, with the exception of the guard who suffered the fatal strike, were triaged and treated for their injuries at surrounding hospitals.
“The investigation into this tragic incident is ongoing,” the statement said.
— Jim Rosenfield (@jimrosenfield) August 31, 2021
A makeshift memorial has been set up at the 21st Avenue beach against a lifeguard chair. Berkeley Township said crisis counselors would be available for beach staff this week.
“This is a tragic and heartbreaking day for our town and the entire Jersey Shore,” said Mayor Carmen Amato. “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.”
“On behalf of myself and our entire community, I offer our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of this young man,” he added.
Gov. Phil Murphy also offered his condolences, on the heels of a separate fatal lifeguarding incident in Cape May.
“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,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement. “I’ve spoken to Mayor Carmen Amato and offered the full support and assistance of our administration during this difficult time.”
Swimming will be off-limits in South Seaside Park while guards mourn the loss of their colleague for several days. Berkeley Township’s ocean beaches will be closed for swimming, but open for sunbathers,Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as beach staff and lifeguards will be off, Amato announced.