Man dies while trying to get kids off the beach during a lightning storm in Seaside Park

The death comes as Seaside Park is about to upgrade its lightning detection systems.

Jim Murdoch

Jun 24, 2024, 10:13 PM

Updated 25 days ago

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Work on upgraded lightning detection systems in Seaside Park is expected to begin on Tuesday.
It comes after a weekend of storms impacted many Jersey Shore beaches. A Toms River man died while trying to save others from the storm.
“We don't want to tell people when the storm is here, we want to tell people that the storm is coming so that they can stay ahead of it,” said Seaside Park lifeguard captain Jim Rankin.
A view of the western sky Sunday evening in Ocean County showed an ominous shelf cloud. The leading edge of severe thunderstorms moved over towns from Point Pleasant Beach to Seaside Park.
“In the event of a thunderstorm, the beach is a very dangerous place to be. So if you feel things like a wind shift, if it's fluttering back and forth between hot and cold, you see the clouds, you hear little rumbles of thunder - those are signs to get off the beach,” said Rankin.
As those storm clouds moved in around 7 p.m., 58-year-old Patrick Dispoto tried to warn a group of kids he saw on the beach after guards had left. His girlfriend Ruth tells News 12 he made sure she was safe inside his truck before heading up the dune and onto the sand. Then the storm hit. A short time later Dispoto was found unresponsive and CPR efforts began immediately.
Dispoto was pronounced dead just before 9 p.m. at a local hospital. Ruth believes he was the latest victim of a lightning strike at the Jersey Shore, and says he died a hero trying to help get those kids he saw on the beach to shelter and safety.
Dispoto's cause of death is still being evaluated, although his loved ones say they'll never forget their “lovable cowboy hero.”
Dispoto's death comes just three years after a lifeguard tragedy in Berkeley Township when Keith Pinto was struck and killed by a sudden bolt of lightning. Rankin tells News 12 that lessons were learned in that incident. This is the main reason why Seaside Park will have a new detection system ready in a few weeks.
“It's impossible to be perfect when it comes to something like lightning but if we can be ahead of it using the resources that we have and get people into a safe place - keep people out of danger - that's huge. It's a tough message to get to people, especially young stubborn kids that just don't want to leave,” he said.
Rankin says beachgoers should always be weather aware when storms are in the forecast by frequently checking radar apps, watching for towering clouds and heeding warnings to clear the beaches when they're given.


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