A 56-year-old lifeguard hospitalized after lightning struck the water near the Venice pier Sunday, killing a 20-year-old man, was improving at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center today.
The lifeguard, whose name was withheld, was taken to the hospital in what Los Angeles firefighters termed critical condition. Today, his condition was fair, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe said the lifeguard has worked summers for 35 years with the county fire department — the lifeguards’ parent agency — and was “making a good recovery.”
Nick Fagnano was not so lucky. He died of injuries suffered about 2:20 p.m. when bolt of lightning electrified the water. A vigil in his memory was held Tuesday evening at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, 10800 Moorpark St., in North Hollywood.
The vigil was organized by two friends who were with Fagnano at the beach when the accident occurred.
“His smile was infectious; his personality was incomparable,” friend Matt Cohen told KTLA. “He’s just the nicest person anybody will ever meet.”
According to the National Weather Service, Fagnano became the 16th person killed by lightning strikes this year.
Seven adults and a 15-year-old boy were hospitalized following the thunderstorm, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Friends said Fagnano was about the leave the beach but decided to go back into the water to rinse off just before the strike. Firefighters said he was in grave condition when pulled from the surf.
“The guy wasn’t moving. He wasn’t responding at all,” beachgoer Jesus Zamudio told the Los Angeles Times.
Fagnano, who worked at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, was a graduate of Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, where he was pitcher on the baseball team. He planned to enter USC’s Price School of Public Policy this fall as a junior.
“There was so much commotion when the lightning struck on the beach, he was not one of those recovered in the first response,” Fagnano’s mother, Mary, told the Daily News. “His friends were looking frantically for him, couldn’t find him. Half an hour after lightning struck, his body was found about 50 feet out.”
The other people who were hospitalized after the lightning strike were expected to fully recover, fire officials said.