Joseph Tutaj, the Seaford High School sophomore who died suddenly on Tuesday after complaining of a high fever, is remembered by school officials as someone of "high character" who achieved academic excellence.
Tutaj, 15, was travelling with the Seaford High School Band on a school-sponsored trip to Southern California and was transported by ambulance to Ronald Regan Medical Center after complaining of a fever and feeling too ill to fly home. Hospital officials confirmed that Tutaj's illness was not contagious but school officials, along with the boy’s family, are trying to obtain the medical details that led to his tragic death.
Seaford Superintendent Brian Conboy called Tutaj “a person of high character who was an involved and respected student.” He said the district is offering grief counseling for students and families in need. Funeral services have not yet been finalized.
“The Seaford community is heartbroken," Conboy said. “We are a tight community. Our hearts and our support are with the Tutaj family as they deal with this incredibly unfortunate tragedy.”
Follow Wantagh-Seaford Patch on Facebook by clicking here
The Tutaj family was displaced during Superstorm Sandy in late October after their Seaford Harbor home was flooded. They have since been living temporarily in Bethpage. Tutaj's father is battling stage 4 cancer.
"The tragic passing of Joseph Tutaj leaves Seaford High School without one of its genuinely good citizens," said Seaford High School Principal Scott Bersin in a statement. "Joseph was widely known and respected for being a kind person under all circumstances; one to whom others looked to brighten their day if things were not working out. He offered time to many service projects, both as a student and as a Boy Scout. He also offered to help others in informal ways whenever called upon, such as during this winter season when he volunteered to be a stage crew member for the high school drama production."
Tutaj was active in Seaford High School's music program including being a trumpeter with the marching band. He was also a member of the school’s Robotics Team and Model Congress Club. Bersin described Tutaj as a "fine academic student" with many strengths, particularly with computer programming.
"His colleagues and teachers in the band family, and all around the school, will miss him dearly," Bersin said. "He was truly a good soul."