Memorial Fund Set Up To Help The Family With Funeral And Other Expenses

SEAFORD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island mother is struggling to cope with the loss of her teenage son who died last week on a band trip.

Joseph Tutaj was hospitalized with a high fever and died on Feb. 19 while in Los Angeles to perform at Disneyland with the Seaford High School marching band.

Friends and family said he had no known medical problems and it’s still unclear exactly what caused his death.

Joseph’s mother, Eileen Tutaj, said she is desperate to know why her son died so suddenly.

“He was a healthy boy. I wish I knew what happened. I really need to know why and what happened,” Tutaj told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera on Friday.

The victim’s mother told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan the agony of the last week appears to her in flashbacks. She remembers vividly the call from Disneyland informing her and her husband their son was suddenly very ill and had collapsed.

“I got the call when I was in the airport. They basically tried to revive him and they weren’t able to. So they have a lot of unanswered questions. They really want some answers as well,” Eileen Tutaj said.

She said she doesn’t know how she’ll get over the loss.

“I just can’t imagine my life without him, but I know Joe would want things to go forward and to try to get things as normal as possible,” she said.

Fellow band members recalled lunching on Santa Monica pier as Joseph Tutaj felt faint before an urgent call to 911.

“When I saw the ambulance, I got extremely worried. I wanted to run after the ambulance,” said band member Michael Nicola.

The tragedy is just the latest in a series of hard times for Joseph’s family.

His father is battling stage four cancer; the family also lost their home during Superstorm Sandy and have been living temporarily in Bethpage.

A memorial fund has been set up to help the family with funeral and other expenses.

For more information on how to donate click here.

Joseph was a rising star in the school band, playing both the trumpet and the French horn. He also had participated in Model Congress, the Boy Scouts and math competitions.

A wake will be held Saturday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Charles G. Schmitt Funeral Home on Merrick Road in Seaford.

The funeral mass will be at 10 a.m. Monday at St. William the Abbot in Seaford.

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