POSTED: 7:55 a.m. HST, Jul 29, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 12:48 p.m. HST, Jul 29, 2014
LOS ANGELES >> A rare lightning strike Sunday at Venice Beach cut short the life of a well-liked 21-year-old man eager to attend the University of Southern California this fall.
Nick Fagnano was sitting on the beach with friends when he decided to go into the water and rinse off sand as the lightning hit, his mother, Mary, told the Whittier Daily News. Fagnano was rushed unresponsive to the hospital and later died.
Nine other people were taken to hospitals, and three more were treated at the scene.
Dennis Shanahan, Fagnano's uncle, said his nephew "was the little brother I never had, and I was the older brother he never had."
"He was a joy, an absolute joy," Shanahan added. "Nick was just a kid that lit up the room wherever he went."
The only child of Mary and Nicholas "Jay" Fagnano, he attended Catholic elementary school in Los Angeles before enrolling at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks.
As a pitcher on the high school's baseball team, coach Tom Dill said he "led by example."
"He was a sweet young man who was very respectful and loved by everyone -- a pretty rare student," Dill said.
A devout Catholic, he joined weekly Bible studies and was actively involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Dill said.
Fagnano played the drums and the guitar, and he was known to frequently hum a tune and crack a smile, Shanahan said.
Through his teenage years, he maintained close relationships with his family, sampling Los Angeles restaurants with his parents and attending Dodgers games with his father.
After graduating from high school in 2012, Fagnano attended Santa Barbara City College and later Santa Monica City College. He was accepted into USC's Sol Price School of Public Policy, where he enrolled to start this fall as a junior studying urban policy and development.
Fagnano was an active parishioner at St. Brendan Catholic Church, where he went to Mass on Sunday morning, hours before his death. A funeral is scheduled for Thursday at the parish.
Shanahan, a television news reporter in Sacramento, said Fagnano's grieving parents are confident their son's life made an impact.
"He shined brighter than this lightning bolt," Shanahan said, recounting his sister's words. "His light will shine on."