Lightning strike kills man on beach as he warns other beach goers of approaching storm

Zenebou Sylla and Kaila Nichols
CNN
Patrick Dispoto, 59, died after being struck by lightning at Seaside Park Beach in New Jersey on Sunday.
Patrick Dispoto, 59, died after being struck by lightning at Seaside Park Beach in New Jersey on Sunday. Credit: Ruth Fussell/WABC via CNN

A man has died after being struck by lightning on a American beach while trying to warn other beach goers of an incoming storm.

Patrick Dispoto, 59, was at Seaside Park Beach in New Jersey with his girlfriend on Sunday but they returned to his truck when they realised a storm was approaching.

His girlfriend Ruth Fussell told police she waited in the truck while Dispoto went back to the beach to warn others.

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“He said, ‘I’ll be right back’. I said, ‘You have no business going back’,” Fussell told CNN affiliate WABC.

“And he says, ‘I’m just going to warn these kids because the sky is going to open. I’m just going to warn these kids — one minute.’ I said, ‘No’.”

Fussell said she called Dispoto three times but he didn’t respond, and she waited about 15 minutes for him to return.

She eventually went back to the beach where she found him unconscious.

Emergency responders performed CPR on Dispoto but he was pronounced dead at hospital, police said.

Dispoto died by an “accidental death caused by lightning strike”, Police Sergeant Andrew Casole said on Wednesday.

Days after Dispoto’s death, Seaside Park installed a lightning warning system.

In April, Seaside Park officials purchased the Strike Guard Lightning Detection System, an investment of nearly $50,000.

The system aims to provide lightning warnings by monitoring cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning strikes within a radius set by the user of up to 32km.

Seaside Park borough administrator Karen Kroon told CNN the system, which had been in preparation for months, was meant to have been installed on Wednesday.

Patrick Dispoto and his girlfriend Ruth Fussell.
Patrick Dispoto and his girlfriend Ruth Fussell. Credit: Ruth Fussell/WABC via CNN

Kroon emphasised the installation was not in response to Dispoto’s death.

“The borough made that investment because public safety is extremely important and we want to do everything we can to alert our residents and visitors to imminent danger,” Kroon said.

According to the National Lightning Safety Council, this is the third lightning death in the US this year.

It is the first death in New Jersey since 2021 when a lifeguard was struck and killed on a beach in South Seaside Park.

Since 2006, New Jersey has had 16 lightning deaths — five on beaches.

Fussell told WABC that Dispoto never passed up an opportunity to make someone’s life easier and that’s what she wants people to know.

“So, his last act of heroism was his ultimate, and that’s my Patrick Dispoto,” Fussell said.

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