Nick Fagnano, 20, of Los Angeles, was swimming in the water and disappeared under the waves after the lightning strike around 2:30 p.m. He was pulled from the water 90 minutes later, given CPR and transported to Marina Del Rey Hospital in critical condition, where he succumbed to his injuries. An autopsy is pending.
Firefighters said a bolt of lightning hit the water and the electrical current then traveled, hitting swimmers and surfers in and out of the water near the 3500 block of Ocean Front Walk.
A surfer, whose identity has not been released, remains in critical condition at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood.
Los Angeles County lifeguards say it doesn't appear either the deceased swimmer or surfer took a direct hit, but the deadly surge of electricity knocked both of them unconscious.
Thirteen people, including a 15-year-old, were examined at the scene, and eight patients were hospitalized after being struck near the Driftwood lifeguard tower. Five others were injured, but did not require hospitalization, city fire spokeswoman Katherine Main said.
Fagnano's family described him as a friendly and athletic person who loved baseball, going to the beach and snowboarding. He graduated from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, attended Santa Barbara City College and was accepted to the University of Southern California as a junior transfer studying policy, planning and development.
"His goals truly embodied the mission of the Price School to improve the quality of life for people and their communities. He left a lasting impression on all who came in contact with him at the Price School, and his presence will be greatly missed," USC Sol Price School of Public Policy Dean Jack Knott said.
His uncle, Dennis Shanahan, said Fagnano was looking forward to starting USC this fall. He said Fagnano was a big Dodgers fan and was very close to his parents and extended family.
"Nick was the friendliest young man you'd ever meet," Shanahan said in a statement to Eyewitness News. "He was an only child. The kind of kid every parent would want their son to grow up to be. Hard-working, ambitious, and truly kind-hearted. Always happy. Great sense of humor."
Fagnano worked as a bartender at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, according to his Facebook page.
"We are saddened to have lost a colleague and a friend, we offer our love and support to his family and loved ones," Ace Hotel said in a statement.
A vigil organized by friends will be held Tuesday night at St. Charles Borromeo Church, 10800 Moorpark Street in North Hollywood. Fagnano's funeral is scheduled for Thursday at 5 p.m. at St. Brendan Catholic Church, 310 Van Ness Avenue in Los Angeles.
PHOTOS: Lightning strikes Venice Beach