TAMPA — In all he did, Justin Inversso made it a mission to do the work of a higher power, his father, Frank, says.
In his job as a lifeguard supervisor at Adventure Island, a job he had held since March, the 21-year-old University of South Florida engineering student not only protected lives, but strived to enrich souls of those around him.
"He was a strong young man, conscientious of living his life according to the ways of the Lord," said Frank Inversso, a bailiff with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. "He was a true lifeguard. He was committed to being a true life preserver and soul preserver."
Justin Inversso was escorting people off of the water park's Key West Rapids slide Saturday in preparation for an incoming thunderstorm when he was struck by lightning, his father said.
Fellow lifeguards found him submerged in a shallow pool in the midsection of the slide and pulled him out of the water to begin CPR. Paramedics later took Mr. Inversso to University Community Hospital, where he died.
"He loved the great outdoors and he wasn't going to let fear keep him from enjoying life," Frank Inversso said.
An honor roll student, Mr. Inversso was the captain of the swim team at Pasco High School, where he graduated in 2009. As an athlete, he participated in a variety of activities from basketball and swimming to skiing.
He studied at Pasco-Hernando Community College before transferring to USF, where he was beginning his junior year, his father said.
In recent weeks, he was excited at the prospect of possibly joining an engineering team at Busch Gardens, with the park helping pay his tuition, his family said. Whether it was physics, math or the sciences, he always excelled in logical subjects, most recently knocking out a score of 97 on a test, his father said.
But his most important test was a spiritual one, his father said.
"It was a signature of his person that he was a peacekeeper," he said. "He was quick to go to the Word and ask, 'Am I honoring God?' "
"He is at peace," his father added. "He would be celebrating his life as a victory."
Along with his father, Mr. Inversso leaves behind his mother, Julie, and a younger sister and brother. The family plans to hold a memorial service.
Key West Rapids, a six-story, 700-foot slide, remained closed to the public Sunday, though the rest of the park was open..
Dan Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3321.