NJ lifeguard struck by lightning mourned — Was aluminum chair a factor?
BERKELEY — Friends and family gathered Tuesday night at White Sands Beach to remember a young lifeguard who was killed by lightning Monday afternoon.
Candles filled the sand around the lifeguard stand in Berkeley Township as many stood quietly remembering 19-year-old college student Keith Pinto.
One of those people was his twin brother, Kevin, who told ABC 7 Eyewitness News that the four-year lifeguard aspired to be a Marine.
Seven others, including three lifeguards, were also injured by the strike's affects. They have all been released from hospitals, according to police.
Kevin told CBS 2 New York that they were both members of the beach patrol and used to sit side by side on duty.
"He wouldn’t want everybody crying over him. That’s just not the kind of person he is,” one of Keith’s other brothers told CBS New York.
Former classmate Gabriella Dellolio told News 12 New Jersey that Keith was "a really nice kid" who never had a bad day.
The Toms River Regional School District Board of Education remembered Keith with a moment of silence before Tuesday night's meeting. The 19-year-old was a member of the Toms River North Class of 2020, where he ran track. He was about to enter his sophomore year at Ocean County College.
Was lightning attracted to aluminum chair?
Township Administrator John Camera told Townsquare Media News that part of the investigation of the incident is whether or not the aluminum lifeguard stand played a role in the lightning strike.
"At this point there's been no indication from anybody that the chairs are a problem but certainly it's going to be looked at because it's new territory," Camera said.
The township began to use the chairs in 2020 because they are lightweight and more durable than the heavy wooden ones.
"The wooden ones had been the source of workers comp claims for back injuries and crushing injuries," Camera said. "We've already reached out to the manufacturer and our insurance company to see if there are any concerns."
Camera said the stands are made by Heritage Towers based in Cape May.
Path of least resistance
Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said lightning isn't attracted to metal but is always looking for the easiest path to the ground.
"Anecdotally, if you have a metal object sitting next to an almost identical object made of wood, I suspect the metal one would be struck. That also explains why so many people were injured by the single lightning strike. The electricity was easily carried through the aluminum into the ground, affecting those nearby too," Zarrow said.
Vin Ebenau contributed to this report.