Lifeguard Keith Pinto, 19, Killed By Lightning Strike In Berkeley Township, N.J., 7 Other People Injured
BERKELEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A young lifeguard was killed by a lightning strike while on duty on Monday afternoon on the Jersey Shore.
Witnesses told CBS2's Cory James the conditions were initially clear and sunny, leaving no signs that a dangerous storm was moving in. And it left them no time to take cover.
READ MORE: Family, Friends Mourning Loss Of 19-Year-Old Keith Pinto, New Jersey Lifeguard Fatally Struck By Lightning
Abby Spurling was left stunned and holding back tears as she stood in front of the lifeguard chair that she said her friend, 19-year-old Keith Pinto, was in when he was tragically struck by lightning.
"He made everyone so happy. It doesn't feel real. He was just an awesome person all around. It's just ... I'm speechless," Spurling said.
The heartbreaking incident happened on the beach at South Seaside Park in Berkeley Township at around 4:30 p.m. Police said a total of eight people were injured, including four lifeguards.
"It was almost like a bomb went off," said Vince Ruffolo, who was visiting from Wisconsin.
Ruffolo said he was with about 15 yards away with six friends when the force of the lightning strike knocked them to the ground.
"Next thing you know, one of our colleagues sees this young man fall off the chair, off the lifeguard, and then there were people in the area trying to work on him. You could smell like hair burning," Ruffolo said.
READ MORE: 13-Year-Old Carlos Ramos Dies After Being Struck By Lightning At Orchard Beach
Gov. Phil Murphy took to Twitter, saying his heart is with family and friends of the young lifeguard who died.
Friends said Pinto was a young man who was an athlete who ran track at High School North, but most importantly a good man. That was clearly evident in the reaction of people dropping off flowers to honor a life gone too soon.
"It's heartbreaking because someone from our graduating class is gone and he can't experience life with the rest of us," friend Giana Verlangieri said.
"He was never upset or afraid of anything. He always had a good time," Spurling said.
"Our heart and prayers go to the family," Ruffolo added.
Berkeley Township Mayor Carmen Amato Jr. expressed his condolences, saying Pinto was on the job every day protecting the lives of others.
The seven other victims were taken to local hospitals, but their conditions were not immediately known. Officials said the beach will be reopened for swimming on Friday.
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