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A 70-year-old New Jersey man has reportedly become the first person to be killed by lightning in the US this year when he was struck by a bolt while playing golf.

Michael Ward was found unconscious and not breathing about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday near the seventh hole at the Burlington County Country Club in Westampton, NJ.com reported.

First responders said “it was evident from the scene that the male had been struck by lightning,” according to a statement by Police Chief Stephen Ent.

“At the time of the lightning strike, isolated pop-up thunderstorms were in the area,” he said, adding that the Burlington County Medical Examiner’s Office is assisting in the investigation.

Ward was pronounced dead at the scene.

His death was the first fatal lightning strike in the country in 2021,  said John Jenenius, a lightning safety specialist with the National Lightning Safety Council.

“This is the first fatality in New Jersey since Sept. 7, 2012, and the 14th (in New Jersey) since 2006,” he told NJ.com in an email. “Since 2006, there have been 11 golf-related (lightning) fatalities in the US.”

The US averages five fatal lightning strikes through June 9, Jenenius said, citing data from the past 10 years.

“This year set a record for the latest first fatality of the year,” he said. “Previously, the record was May 23rd, set 10 years ago in 2011.”

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