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January 18, 2011

NJ responder's death probed

By Justo Bautista
Herald News

RIVER EDGE, N.J. — A borough ambulance corps member who "enjoyed serving the community" died Sunday after colleagues returning from a call found him in the driveway of the corps building on Continental Avenue, a squad official said.

Matthew Pellettere, 37, died at Hackensack University Medical Center after corps members found him "unresponsive" and started CPR, said Joseph Zemaites, captain of the River Edge Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Responding to an emergency call around 9:40 a.m. Sunday, Pellettere went to the corps building so he could ride with the ambulance, but he missed the rig.

Zemaites said two members rode on the rig. He said he did not know the nature of the call.

The cause of Pellettere's death was not known Sunday. Police said the incident is under investigation.

"It's tough, especially for the people who were working on him," Zemaites said, referring to the corps members who tried to revive Pellettere.

On Sunday, purple and black bunting was fastened to the corps headquarters as the 40 members mourned one of their own.

Pellettere, a teacher's aide in Paterson and a father of two, was a probationary member of about one year, Zemaites said.

A probationary member must respond to a "certain amount of calls" and then, based on experience, is promoted to a regular riding member, Zemaites said.

"He was civic-minded and enjoyed helping the community," Zemaites said. "It takes a special kind of person, someone dedicated to helping the community. That was Matt, without a doubt."

Helping the community was a family affair: Pellettere's father-in-law, Steve Cirino, has been a corps member for 15 years and his mother-in law, Donna Cirino, has been with the corps for 10 years, Zemaites said. Like his in-laws, Pellettere was active in St. Peter the Apostle Church in River Edge.

Corps members have been offered grief counseling, Zemaites said.

Funeral arrangements are by Beaugard Funeral Home in River Edge.

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