By Greta Cobar
A rare lightning storm hit Venice on Sunday, July 27, killing one person and injuring 13 others. Nicholas Patrick Fagnano (November 23, 1993 – July 27, 2014) was getting ready to start attending USC, his dream school, in two weeks.
“He worked hard these past two years and was so excited to start at USC,” his father, Jay Fagnano, told the Beachhead. He didn’t get into USC right out of high school, and attended Santa Barbara City College for two years. “He just went downtown to finalize where he was gonna live and from there just came to the beach, two weeks before college, with his high school friends. They really liked going to the beach, and this was their go-to spot,” his father told the Beachhead.
“Nick was on the volleyball courts, and before heading home he told his friends: ‘let me just get in the water and rinse the sand off me’ – he just went in for one minute. After it happened there was such pandemonium – his friends couldn’t find him,” his father said.
“They found him fifty feet out, about thirty minutes later. Two lifeguards found him and did everything they could. Then they took him to the Marina hospital. It was lightning that killed him,” his father went on to say.
I met his parents, Mary and Jay Fagnano, on the Venice pier at a small family memorial held for Nick. Locals, friends and family members brought written words, pictures and flowers to the entrance to the pier, in what has become a make-shift memorial for Nick. He is survived by his parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. Nick has no siblings. A scholarship fund for an undergraduate transfer student to USC has been established in Nick’s name.
Vern L. Williams can be found fishing at the end of the Venice pier on most days, and July 27 was no different. He was sitting right next to the light pole at the very end of the pier as “clouds came over us and stopped in the middle of the circle,” he told the Beachhead. “It started roaming, and then Boom! Everybody ducked down and then they all left the pier. I said I’m not going nowhere – I’ve been on this pier thirty to forty years of my life, fishing. I was the only one left on the pier,” Williams told the Beachhead.
“The lightning hit the pole, I saw it when it hit, I saw light circle the pole – good thing I didn’t touch the pole. I would’ve been dead. I saw the light ricochet off the pole. It was really scary. I started shivering and then it started raining,” Williams said.