A 73-year-old Brigantine man’s death is the first reported in Atlantic County directly linked to Hurricane Sandy.

Lester Kaplan decided to stay in his Lafayette Boulevard home alone, disregarding the evacuation order, according to his wife, Atara Kaplan.

He died of hypothermia after he was found inside his home unconscious Friday afternoon, acting Fire Chief Jim Holl said Monday.

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“My husband was very strong-willed,” Atara said. “He doesn’t want to leave. When someone tells him something and he should go, he will not go. He’s just so stubborn. I think that was his only main fault. He felt the last storm was not that bad and he felt this one wasn’t going to be any better. We’ve been on the island for a very long time and all the storms seemed to be nothing.”

The rest of Kaplan’s family left the island during the storm. Atara Kaplan said she checked in with him every day.

“The next morning, when I tried to call, the phone just rang and rang and rang,” she said. “I’m thinking something’s wrong. I know something’s wrong. When he doesn’t get to the phone right away he’ll always call me back.”

Atara Kaplan said that because of power outages she had trouble getting through to the police department but that ultimately she was able to report that her husband wasn’t answering his phone.

When the fire department went to check the house and found him naked on the dining room floor inside the flooded house, Holl said.

The city’s firefighter EMTs responded to the home on Lafayette Boulevard at about 4 p.m. and gave him oxygen. On the way to the hospital, he went into cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead upon arrival.

“This is a perfect example of when emergency personnel tell people they need to evacuate, they need to go,” Holl said.

He could not say why the man was naked, but the chief — who is also a registered nurse — said hypothermia affects brain function.

An Atlantic City woman reportedly died after suffering a heart attack during the evacuation before Sandy. But this was the first county death that was directly related to the storm itself.

Atara Kaplan said that Lester loved kids, Boston sports teams, Bob Marley, black jack, and Jeopardy.

“Everybody who knew him, loved him,” she said. “Great talker. Very strong-willed; always thought that he could overcome everything, every obstacle.”

Staff writer Jennifer Bogdan contributed to this report.

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