AVALON — Members of the borough’s rescue community are reeling following the death of one of their own.
The body of Avalon Rescue Squad EMT and Beach Patrol member Brett Fitzpatrick, 25, of Ocean City, was found at the water’s edge by two people walking Wednesday morning on the borough beach near 22nd Street.
The cause of death remains under investigation.
Beach patrol member Matt Wolf said he and his colleagues are struggling to grasp the loss.
“I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like next summer when we walk in and he’s not there,” he said. “I don’t know, I don’t know. There are no words to explain or describe.”
The incident is being investigated by the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office and the Avalon Police Department. An autopsy is expected to be performed soon, borough spokesman Scott Wahl said.
A statement from the Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday said only that several friends of the victim who had been with him recently were interviewed and that further details concerning the death “will be forthcoming pursuant to the investigation.”
Fitzpatrick joined the beach patrol as a medic in the summer of 2009, quickly proving himself indispensable to the squad, Wolf said.
Wolf, who became close with Fitzpatrick that first summer, said his friend always could be counted on to keep a level head in an emergency. He was an asset during lifeguard competitions and helped deliver several wins during his five summers with the team.
Fitzpatrick traveled to Texas with Wolf’s brother in October 2011 to take a six-month paramedic course. He took a job with AtlantiCare this spring after transferring his certification to New Jersey. He joined the Avalon Rescue Squad in November, Chief Kevin Scarpa said.
While he supervised Fitzpatrick only for about two months, Scarpa often worked with him in joint exercises and training programs. He said Fitzpatrick’s sudden death is a blow.
“Absolutely shocking,” Scarpa said. “You don’t want to see anyone injured. We worked together for about four years. It’s shocking. It’s disappointing. I can’t imagine what his family is going through.”
Wolf said his friend had several positive traits that made him an asset. He was dependable, smart, calm under pressure and was as gifted an athlete as anyone on patrol. Above all else, he truly cared about his community, from the swimmer in crisis to the kid crying over a Band-Aid.
“The kid would be smiling by the time he left. He had such a nice way about him, but was such a tough kid in competition,” he said. “He’s everything you’d want a friend to be, want a lifeguard to be, paramedic, EMT to be. Everything you want a man to be, that would be Brett Fitzpatrick.”
Family members could not be reached Thursday. No information about services was available.
Taylor urged anyone with information concerning the investigation to contact the Prosecutor’s Office by calling 609-465-1168 or anonymously online through the Cape May County Sheriff’s Tip Line at cmcsheriff.net and clicking on “anonymous tip.” Information can be provided through Cape May County CrimeStoppers at 609-465-2800 or 877-465-2801.
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