Matt Summerill

Matt Summerhill. Photo courtesy GoFundMe

A Columbia University student from Northern Virginia has died, weeks after being struck by lightning in Kitty Hawk on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Matt Summerill, 23, was swimming with friends Aug. 23 when he was struck in the back by a lightning bolt, according to police and a GoFundMe account set up to cover medical costs.

Summerill had been hospitalized at a trauma center in Greenville, North Carolina since the accident and in a medically-induced coma, the GoFundMe page said.

"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 wrote. "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. Medical services took over soon after and after over an hour of more CPR got him to where they could move him, but not in a HelEvac because by that point the storm had moved in."

NOAA lightning expert John Jensenius confirmed the student's death in a news release, saying the case is the 16th lightning fatality of the year in the United States.

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. Messages to the GoFundMe organizer and Summerill's family were not immediately returned this week.
 
The incident happened around 2:50 p.m. as a thunderstorm  moved across the beach.

Summerill grew up in the Herndon area of Fairfax County, working as a lifeguard at county pools and attended Northern Virginia Community College, according to his LinkedIn page. He was studying mathematical economics and neuroscience at Columbia University, listing his graduation date as 2020.

On his GoFundMe page, Cameron Blount wrote that Summerill hiked and biked mountains in Colorado, the Grand Canyon and Death Valley during breaks from his studies. The page was last updated Aug. 28.

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