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Heroic act turns fatal: New Jersey man killed by lightning while warning others of storm


In a tragic incident at Seaside Park Beach in New Jersey on Sunday, Patrick Dispoto, a 59-year-old man, was struck by lightning while attempting to alert other beachgoers of an approaching storm. Despite his girlfriend’s pleas to stay in the truck, Dispoto insisted on returning to the beach to warn others, particularly children, of the impending danger.
Ruth Fussell, who identified herself as Dispoto’s girlfriend, recounted the events to CNN’s affiliate WABC.“He said, ‘I’ll be right back.’ I said, ‘You have no business going back.’ 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,'” she shared.
After waiting for approximately 15 minutes and attempting to contact Dispoto three times without success, Fussell returned to the beach only to find him unconscious.
Emergency responders immediately began CPR on Dispoto and transported him to a nearby hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. Police official Andrew Casole confirmed that Dispoto’s death was an accidental result of a lightning strike.
In the days following the incident, Seaside Park installed a lightning warning system called the Strike Guard Lightning Detection System, which had been planned and purchased for nearly $50,000 in April.
The system, which can detect both cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning strikes within a user-defined radius of up to 20 miles, was scheduled for installation on Wednesday, as confirmed by Seaside Park Borough Administrator Karen Kroon.
She emphasised that the installation was not a direct response to the recent tragedy but rather a proactive measure to ensure public safety and alert residents and visitors of potential dangers.
Since 2006, New Jersey has recorded 16 lightning-related deaths, with five occurring on beaches, including the death of a lifeguard in South Seaside Park in 2021.
Fussell shared with WABC that Dispoto was always ready to help others and make their lives easier, and she wants people to remember him for that. “So, his last act of heroism was his ultimate, and that’s my Patrick Dispoto,” she said, highlighting his selfless nature and the impact he had on those around him.

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