North Carolina

College student hit by lightning at Outer Banks beach dies after weeks in hospital

The 23-year-old college student who was struck by lightning last month at the Outer Banks has died of his injuries, according to the forensics office at East Carolina University.

He was identified as Matt Summerill by a GoFundMe campaign set up to cover medical expenses.

The Division of Autopsy and Forensic Services at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine confirmed the death to the Charlotte Observer, but declined to say when Summerill died or give specifics of his injuries.

Lightning struck the 23-year-old around 3 p.m. Aug. 23, as he swam in the Atlantic near the 3800 block of North Virginia Dare Trail in Kitty Hawk, according to a Facebook post by the Kitty Hawk Police Department.

The last update on his condition was posted two weeks ago, when Jim Summerill of Washington DC wrote on the police department’s Facebook page that his son was “still unconscious and being transported to level one trauma center.”

NOAA lightning expert John Jensenius sent out a press release Wednesday saying the death marked the nation’s 16th lightning fatality this year. “Prior to this fatality, the most recent fatal incident in North Carolina occurred on July 28, 2018, when a man was struck and killed in Raleigh while walking through an auto salvage yard,” Jensenius said.

The GoFundMe campaign, created Aug. 28, reported Summerill was visiting the Outer Banks after “having finished the summer semester” at Columbia University.

“He was in the water near shore, throwing a Frisbee with two friends, when a lightning bolt came out of the clear blue sky and struck him in the lower back. His two friends collected themselves and realized Matthew was face down in the water,” according to the GoFundMe page.

“They took him to shore and started performing CPR, and the lifeguard rushed an oxygen tank to him right away. Medical services took over soon after...”

Summerill had been “in a medically induced coma” at a Greenville hospital since the incident, the campaign page said.

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