UPDATE: Man confirmed dead after being struck by lightning near Masonboro Island
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A man was struck and killed by lightning near Masonboro Island on Sunday around 3:15 p.m..
The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office responded with their Marine Unit, along with Wilmington Police Department’s Marine Unit, after civilians flagged them down during a routine patrol, where they found 33-year-old William Friend had been struck by lightning.
Deputies performed CPR on Friend as they were taking him to Bradley Creek Marina to meet EMS.
EMS moved Friend to the ambulance, where they attempted to resuscitate him for 20 minutes. Friend was then pronounced dead and EMS took his body to the hospital to meet with family members.
Friend, who married One Tree Hill star Bevin Prince in 2016, was less than a week away from celebrating his 34th birthday.
Boaters and lightning safety experts say Friend’s tragic death is a reminder of the dangers of being on the water or at the beach during a storm.
“There’s really no safe place on a boat,” said Captain Ryan Saporito with Sea Tow Wrightsville Beach. Saporito was helping other boats in the area during the storm Sunday.
John Jensenius with the National Lightning Safety Council says being near the water without shelter during a thunderstorm can be life-threatening.
“Some people think that there’s some protection just based on a little bit of metal, but really there isn’t when you consider that lightning gets into the metal systems of your boat and you’re very close to those. So. really. very little protection, especially if you’re an open boat,” said Jensenius.
Experts say the number of people out on the water can increase danger during storms.
“Unfortunately, you know, we still had captains in the area helping people trying to get them out of the storm because their batteries were dead or the boats were aground,” Saporito said.
With pop-up storms and the threat of lightning becoming the norm through the summer months, being near water at call can increase your risk of danger. In fact, nearly half of all lightning-related deaths in the United States last year were people on the beach.
“We recommend getting as far away from water as possible but, to be honest, if you’re in the water or if you’re on the beach you’re very exposed to the lightning threat,” Jensenius said.
According to the National Lightning Safety Council, Friend’s death is the third lightning-related death in the United States this year.
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