Heroic man killed by lightning on Seaside Park Beach trying to warn kids about approaching storm

Toni Yates Image
Wednesday, June 26, 2024
Man dies on Seaside Park Beach trying to warn others about approaching storm
Toni Yates spoke to the girlfriend of the victim about the beach tragedy.

SEASIDE PARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- A woman is speaking out following the tragic death of her boyfriend who was killed by lightning at the Jersey Shore -- while trying to warn children at the beach of an approaching thunderstorm.

Patrick Dispoto, 59, and his girlfriend Ruth Fussell, were starting to leave the beach at Seaside Park on Sunday, but suddenly Dispoto decided to go back to warn kids, who were in the water, about the dangers of an impending lightning storm. But it would be the last time Fussell would see him alive.

"He said, 'I'll be right back.' I said, 'You have 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,'" Fussell said.

Dispoto apparently, in his heart, could not rest thinking about the kids he saw on the beach not leaving fast enough to beat the threat of the storm.

First, he made sure Fussell was safe in his truck. Then he turned down J Street back to the beach.

Fussell says she called him three times and he didn't respond. She waited 15 minutes for Dispoto to return. Worried, she went back to find him face down in the sand and a stranger standing over him.

"He was saying, 'Help, help, 911.' I administered mouth to mouth, and the guy's wife was doing chest compressions," Fussell said.

EMS arrived and took Dispoto to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

"The doctor said 45 minutes after the brain has no oxygen, you have to unplug him. I said, 'No, no you can't,'" Fussell said.

In April, Seaside Park approved $50,000 to buy three lightning warning systems to cover its mile-and-a-half-long beach to warn of lighting danger long before the threat reaches the shoreline.

"You can set the radius as to how far away you want it to track it... five miles, 10 miles, 15 miles, and you can set the radius and it will trigger those sirens to go off," said Seaside Park lifeguard captain Jim Rankin.

A few Jersey Shore beaches already have warning systems. One sits atop the lifeguard station at Berkeley Township Beach, where in 2021, 19-year-old lifeguard Keith Pinto died when he was struck by lightning as he was trying to get visitors off the beach.

A section of the beach is now named in his honor.

Fussell says Dispoto never passed up an opportunity to make someone's life easier, and that's what she wants everyone to know.

"So, his last act of heroism was his ultimate, and that's my Patrick Dispoto," Fussell said.

Seaside Park police on Wednesday said Dispoto's cause of death is confirmed to have been accidental caused by a lightning strike.


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