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New Jersey woman hails ‘valiant hero’ boyfriend killed by lightning strike while warning kids of storm

SEASIDE PARK, N.J. — A man who was struck and killed by lightning along a New Jersey beach on Sunday while attempting to warn children of the impending storm is being hailed as a hero by his girlfriend, who was there when tragedy struck.

Patrick Dispoto, 59, died at the scene in Seaside Park just moments after he and his girlfriend were enjoying a hot day on the shore.

“It was over 100 degrees that day on Sunday, but, Patrick and I dipped our feet in the water, and it was only 60 degrees,” Ruth Fussell told FOX Weather. “So Pat had explained to me about the Gulf Stream, but we had looked up in the sky and there was a big line of black clouds on the right-hand side, even though on the left-hand side of the sky was completely sunny. It was a dichotomy of opposites.”

They decided they were going to head back to their truck when they noticed a group of kids still on the beach.

“It looked like they were already packing it in and putting their backpacks on their backs,” Fussell said.

They walked back to their truck, but Dispoto was worried about the kids.

“Patrick clicked on the truck remote and said, ‘OK, get in the car, get in the truck, and I’ll be right back. I’m just going to tell those kids to skedaddle,’ ” she said.

She pleaded with him not to go but she said she was told he would be “one minute — just one minute.”

Fussell said she got into the truck and waited one minute, then texted him.

“No answer,” she said. “And so I called him; call him once, call him twice, call him three times.”

She ran from the truck and toward the beach, only to come upon a man looking for help.

“This man says, ‘Help! 911! Help!” Fussell recalled. “So I saw that there was something right on the sand next to him. And so I ran, and… it was Pat.”

Fussell said she gave him mouth-to-mouth while another person did chest compressions, rotating jobs until paramedics arrived. Dispoto didn’t survive.

“This man says, ‘Help! 911! Help!” Fussell recalled. “So I saw that there was something right on the sand next to him. And so I ran, and… it was Pat.”

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The storm happened around 7:30 p.m. and “(the beach) was closed at that point … there were no lifeguards on duty,” Fussell added. “So he went back on his own accord to try to protect these children.”

Fussell said she had wondered if Dispoto was able to warn the kids and on Thursday. She got her answer.

“One of the kids actually reached out to me (Thursday),” she said. “She said ‘I heard about what happened. I heard about Patrick, and I’m so sorry.’ And I always had questions like, was he able to get to them before the lightning struck? What exactly happened?”

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