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Boston man, 22, killed in lightning strike in Wyoming

A South End native and Boston College High School graduate died Tuesday after he was struck by lightning while camping in the mountains of Wyoming with an outdoor education group, according to the organization and a family obituary.

The student’s family identified him as John “Jack” Murphy in an obituary, where they described him as a “wilderness enthusiast.”

“He was 22 years young, strong and handsome, with a compassionate and generous spirit that allowed him to connect with others,” his family wrote.

The National Outdoor Leadership School said a group was camping Tuesday evening in the Absaroka Mountains when a 22-year-old student was struck by lightning and went into cardiac arrest, according to a statement. A second adult student was also injured, the statement said.

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The school did not identify either student.

The group had taken shelter and was in “lightning position” when Murphy was struck, said Shana Tarter, spokeswoman for the nonprofit based in Lander, Wyo. The injured student was lying 6 to 10 feet away from Murphy, Tarter said.

He was the first student ever killed by lightning in the organization’s 57 years, she said.

Members of the group performed CPR for more than an hour, but the student died at the scene, NOLS said in the statement.

Teton County Search and Rescue dispatched a helicopter to the area after being notified at 6:25 p.m. that lightning had struck a group of 14 backpackers camping at Enos Lake in the Teton Wilderness, according to a statement.

By the time the helicopter arrived with a three-member rescue crew on board, CPR was already in progress, Teton County Search and Rescue said.

Crew “members took over but the patient could not be revived,” the statement said.

The injured student was flown by helicopter to Moran Wyo., where they were taken by ambulance to a hospital in Jackson, Wyo. The student was later flown to Eastern Idaho Medical Center.

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The helicopter returned to the backcountry and took Murphy to Jackson Hole Airport, where he was met by the Teton County Coroner, the rescue team’s statement said.

Murphy was “in camp,” when he was struck by the lightning, according to the NOLS statement. The lightning strike occurred as heavy thunderstorms rolled through the area, according to the National Weather Service.

Enos Lake is in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, which is south of Yellowstone National Park.

Chris Hattings, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Riverton, Wyo., said the storms brought “a substantial amount of lightning” over the Teton Wilderness on Tuesday night.

“There were a lot of lightning strikes in that area,” Hattings said.

In its statement, NOLS expressed sympathy for the tragic loss and injury of two students.

“This is a very sad day for NOLS, our students and our families,” NOLS President Terri Watson said in the school’s statement. “We extend our deepest condolences to the family of our student who passed away on this course and are focused on supporting their family through this difficult process.”

In his obituary, Murphy’s family thanked the rescue team as well as the NOLS guides “and fellow students who tried bravely to save him and provided Jack fellowship in what were his last days.”

Murphy, who is survived by his parents, two younger sisters, and numerous relatives, grew up in the South End and graduated in 2018 from Boston College High School, where he played rugby, his family said in the obituary. He attended the University of Colorado in Boulder, his family said.

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Murphy’s family said he grew up loving the outdoors and spent time hiking, skiing, and skating with his family and friends in Sunapee, N.H.

“He could often be found after a day of skiing encouraging his friends to stay outside longer, sledding and hiking in the woods,” the obituary said. “He built many forts in the woods of Indian Cave, many of which survive to this day.”

Murphy participated in wilderness camps as he grew older and went on a five-week backpacking expedition in Alaska with NOLS before his senior year of high school, his family said.

“This Alaska trip was a formative experience and one where he excelled as a chosen leader to others in the group,” the obituary said.

Murphy’s death was the ninth national lightning fatality of the year and the first in Wyoming, according to the National Lightning Safety Council.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.