Lightning strike at NJ beach kills lifeguard, injures 7

There have been 9 lightning-related fatalities so far in 2021

BERKELEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. - A young lifeguard was killed and seven others were injured when lightning struck a New Jersey beach Monday afternoon.

Tuesday morning, Berkeley Township Police identified Keith Pinto, 19, of Toms River as the lifeguard who died as a result of his injuries.

According to authorities, police and other agencies responded to reports of lightning strikes in the South Seaside Park section of Berkeley Township, in Ocean County. Responders found four lifeguards and four beachgoers struck by lightning, Mayor Carmen Amato said.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy confirmed that one of the lifeguards had been killed. In a Twitter statement, he offered his full support.

"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," Murphy wrote on Twitter. "I’ve spoken to Mayor Carmen Amato and offered the full support and assistance of our administration during this difficult time."

Seven others were taken to hospitals with injuries that were not considered life-threatening, Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy said.

Berkeley Township's beaches will be closed Tuesday through Thursday as crisis counselors are made available to beach staff and lifeguards, according to Amato.

"This is a tragic and heartbreaking day for our town and the entire Jersey Shore. This young person was out there every day protecting the lives of others," Amato said in a statement obtained by FOX 29 Philadelphia. "Our lifeguard teams, like so many along the shore, develop special connections with our community throughout the summer, which makes this loss even greater."

The Berkeley Township Police Department responded at about 4:35 p.m. Eastern time to a beach on 21st Avenue in Berkeley Township, near the entrance to Island Beach State Park.

Pinto's death marked the second death of a young lifeguard at the Jersey Shore in just over a week.

FOX 29 Philadelphia reported that a 16-year-old lifeguard in Cape May, New Jersey, died after a wave capsized his rowboat and knocked him unconscious on Aug. 20.

And on Aug. 12, 13-year-old Carlos Ramos died after he was struck by lightning at Orchard Beach in the Bronx in New York City, according to the National Weather Service. Six others were injured in that lightning strike, FOX 29 Philadelphia noted.

There have been nine lightning-related fatalities so far in 2021, according to the National Lightning Safety Council.