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Northern Virginia man dies after being struck by lightning in North Carolina

The 23-year-old was in the water near the shore throwing a Frisbee when a lightning bolt struck him in the lower back.

FAIRFAX, Va. — A 23-year-old man from Northern Virginia has died after being struck by lightning in North Carolina.

According to a GoFundMe page created Aug. 28, Matt Summerill, a Columbia University student, was in the water near the shore when he was struck.

"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," organizer Cameron Blount said. "His two friends collected themselves and realized Matthew was facedown in the water. They took him to shore and started performing CPR, and the lifeguard rushed an oxygen tank to him right away."

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According to the GoFundMe page, medical professionals took over and performed CPR for over an hour. They then were able to move him, but he couldn't be transported via helicopter due to a storm.

John Jensenius, a NOAA lightning expert, confirmed Summerill's death in a news release. He said the case is the sixteenth lightning fatality of the year in the U.S. Based on the past 10 years, the U.S. averages 26 fatalities through Sept. 9.

Prior to Summerill's death, the most recent fatal incident in North Carolina occurred July 28, 2018, when a man was struck and killed in Raleigh while walking through an automotive salvage yard.

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According to Blount, Summerill had hiked to the summit of 26 "fourteeners" in Colorado earlier this summer. Blount said Summerill came back with almost no injures, "except some bad sunburn." 

"This was one of the kinds of treks he liked to take between semesters at Columbia University," Blount said. "A few years ago he started this trend by biking across a National Park by himself, on this trek he learned that sunburn and bear mace don't mix, but other than that came back okay. He would in other breaks hike the Grand Canyon, bike and hike in Death Valley, and go about it adventurous but always cautious, coming back okay and ready to take on the next semester."

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