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UNCW student killed by lightning at Wrightsville Beach

Posted September 25, 2009
Updated September 26, 2009

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— An 18-year-old freshman at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington died after being struck by lightning while surfing off Wrightsville Beach Friday afternoon.

UNCW spokeswoman Dana Fischetti said that John Edward Sackett, of Annapolis, Md., and other students were in the ocean when a thunderstorm came up suddenly. Witnesses said that lightning struck Sackett and he struggled before going underwater.

The other students got to shore safely, and authorities were called out to the beach shortly before 3:30 p.m. Coast Guard crews, police, sheriff's deputies and other rescuers searched by air and sea for Sackett.

Coast Gaurd officials said that rescuers found Sackett, who was unresponsive, and performed CPR before he was transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Fischetti said that the official cause of death hasn't been determined.

"The entire campus community is deeply saddened by this loss of a member of the UNCW family," university Chanceellor Rosemary DePaolo said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to John's family and friends during this very difficult time."

Thunderstorms moved across eastern North Carolina on Friday, and authorities say a woman and a toddler were struck by lightning in a store parking lot in Fayetteville.


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