Friends Search for Answers in Mysterious Death of L.I. Teen

By Ida Siegal
|  Friday, Feb 22, 2013  |  Updated 9:15 AM EDT
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Stunned and confused is how one community is feeling after a promising Long Island student suddenly died on a school trip. Ida Siegal reports.

NBC 4 New York

Stunned and confused is how one community is feeling after a promising Long Island student suddenly died on a school trip. Ida Siegal reports.

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Friends of the Long Island high school student who died while on a band trip to California gathered Thursday night at a prayer service, still shocked and confused by the boy's death.

As many as 100 friends and neighbors turned out to say a prayer for Joseph Tutaj, the popular 15-year-old Seaford High School sophomore trumpeter who died in Los Angeles.

"He was the pure definition of happiness," said friend Nick Dantuono.

"He didn't deserve it. Not knowing makes you feel just -- you're eager to find out why, what did he have, what was it?" said Rebecca Tymeck, another friend. 

Tutaj had gone on a trip with fellow band members to perform at Disney Land. He got sick during the trip, and he suddenly passed out, said officials. He later died at the hospital. 

"He was fine the first day, and then he was complaining of a fever and not feeling well the next day, and then he progressively got worse," said Shannon Fredericks, a classmate who was on the trip. "He looked really sick."

Tutaj's classmates and teachers left Los Angeles with so many unanswered questions. Doctors are performing an autopsy. 

Tutaj's father, who is also battling cancer, told NBC 4 New York over the phone Thursday that the family is devastated and desperate for answers. 

A parent at the service Thursday grieved for the family.

"I'm not sure you can fully move on from this," said Pat Sirota. "You lose part of yourself when your child dies."

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