Though lightning sizzled through the sky, Justin Inversso, a USF engineering student and lifeguard at Adventure Island, continued to help others down from a six-story-high waterslide to safety.
It was while serving others Saturday that Inversso was struck by lightning and died, just one day after his 21st birthday. He was the kind of person who always put the needs of others above his own, said his roommate, Forrest Crim, and though they had only lived together for three months, Crim said Inversso is someone he wants to model his life after.
“I knew Justin from going to a Florida (Christian) College (FCC) camp in high school, and we were pretty good friends there,” Crim said. “Then, over the past five years or so, we kind of went our separate ways.”
After high school, Crim attended FCC with Austin Parimore, another friend from camp, while Inversso went to Pasco-Hernando Community College. While they met periodically over the years, the three reunited when Inversso enrolled at USF this fall as a junior.
“Honestly, it’s tough on me and the rest of his roommates and his family just because he was so young and this was so unexpected,” Parimore said. “That’s kind of the hardest thing – just to wrap your mind around going home at night and knowing he’s not going to be there anymore.”
Crim said Inversso spent most of his time working at Adventure Island and spent weekends with his family in Zephyrhills.
“It’s hard to see somebody go that was just starting to be a part of the guys and you were just starting to get to know him a little bit,” he said. “It’s hard losing a friend like that that quickly and that sudden.”
According to a Tampa Fire Rescue release, Inversso was standing in 2 to 3 feet of water on top of the Key West Rapids attraction when a lightning strike sent him into cardiac arrest. Employees pulled him from the water and Tampa Fire Rescue paramedics attempted to resuscitate him before Inversso died at University Community Hospital.
Inversso, whose father Sgt. Frank Inversso works as a bailiff supervisor with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Department, “cared a great deal about the safety of others,” Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said in a statement.
“His actions not only to save the lives of the people in the park, but his entire life demonstrated that he is and will always be a hero,” Nocco said in the statement. “His strong faith led him to live a courageous life of service. There is no question he is in the comfort of our Lord looking down on us.”
A candlelight ceremony was held at Adventure Island on Sunday night, where 250 to 300 people honored Inversso’s memory – a memory Parimore said he’ll carry with him “forever.”
Crim said a viewing will be held tonight at the Calvary Assembly of God in Dade City from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. A service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the same location, after which the procession will move to Hodges Funeral Home on U.S. Route 301.