Nick Fagnano was ready — excited even — to start school again.
The 20-year-old received word in the spring that he'd been accepted to USC after two grueling years in community college. So he quit his job working in a bar at the Ace Hotel, started looking for a place to live near campus, and decided to spend one of his final summer weekends at Venice Beach.
On Sunday, Fagnano was lounging near the pier with two friends from his high school baseball team when he waded into the water to rinse the sand off his body and a lightning bolt shot from the sky, jolting the ocean.
Scores of lifeguards swarmed the area as beachgoers scrambled from the water, but it took more than...