Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Man struck by lightning on Masonboro Island identified, confirmed dead

Surfers on Masonboro Island a day before Hurricane Dorian passed by the region before making landfall over Cape Hatteras. The island is closed to visitors effective Friday at 7:30 p.m. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Masonboro Island as storms rolled in during 2019. (Port City Daily/Mark Darrough)

WILMINGTON — Over the Independence Day weekend, authorities were dispatched near Masonboro Island after receiving a call that someone had been struck by lightning. 

The National Lightning Safety Council has identified the victim as William Friend, a 33-year-old male. 

ALSO: Memorial fund launched to honor lightning-strike victim William Friend, husband of ‘One Tree Hill’ star

Around 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 3, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and the Wilmington Police Department marine units responded to the call, according to NHCSO Lt. Jerry Brewer.

The marine unit is a joint task force of both departments. WPD Lt. Leslie Irving said the boat was patrolling near the island when the call came in.

“Really our role was just transportation,” Brewer confirmed.

As authorities arrived, Friend was unconscious aboard a boat. Brewer said he was not sure of Friend’s location when he was struck by lightning.

“I couldn’t tell you if he was on the island or if he was on a boat,” Brewer said.

Officers moved Friend onto the marine unit boat and rendered CPR, while transporting him to Bradley Creek Marina to meet EMS crews. Medical officials then continued CPR but eventually pronounced Friend deceased. 

It’s the third fatality in 2022 due to lightning, according to NLSC. It lists Friend was near the beach doing “beach activities.”

Around 23 people die per year on a 10-year average according to the council. Over the last decade, 2021 had the least amount of deaths recorded at 11, while 2016 had the most at 40. A little over 200 lightning-strike injuries are reported annually out of 332 million people in the U.S.

North Carolina ranks in the top 20 states over the last decade to experience lightning-strike fatalities. Being outdoors during thunderstorms increases the odds, NLSC notes.

The ranking of states with the most lightning-strike fatalities, according to the National Lightning Safety Council. (Courtesy NLSC)

NLSC advises checking weather patterns closely before venturing outdoors to ensure safety and to follow below tips if caught in a storm unexpectedly:

  • Avoid open fields, the top of a hill or a ridge top
  • Stay away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees
  • If you are in a group, spread out to avoid the current traveling between group members
  • If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine or other low area — a tent offers no protection
  • Stay away from water and wet items (towels), as well as metal objects (fences and poles), which do not attract lightning but are conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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