21-Year-Old New Jersey Fire Department Recruit Dies After Collapsing During Training

A 21-year-old fire fighter recruit died this week after suddenly collapsing during training earlier this month.

Victor Melillo of Morris County, New Jersey, collapsed shortly after 9:30 a.m. on March 4, the county said in a statement released Tuesday.

Melillo had been participating in a training exercise in the parking lot of the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy when he suddenly collapsed.

Several first responders were already on the scene, including EMTS and paramedics, who quickly attended to the young recruit before he was taken to the Morristown Medical Center.

At the hospital, Melillo was pronounced brain dead, his friend Alexis Kordas said in a GoFundMe campaign set up to raise money for his funeral expenses.

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He remained in the hospital's Critical Care Unit until he died on Tuesday.

What caused Melillo to collapse and his official cause of death are not immediately clear.

The Morris County Medical Examiner did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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Kordas wrote in the GoFundMe that Melillo had been training to be a fire fighter after being inspired by his late father, who was the captain of a fire department in a neighboring town for more than 25 years. Melillo's dad died nine months ago, Kordas said.

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"Victor always wanted to follow in his fathers footsteps; by helping people and saving lives," she wrote, adding that he is "fulfilling that dream" even in his death because his organs are being donated.

"Anyone who knew Vic was lucky to know him," Kordas said of her friend.

"Victor was truly born and died a hero. He was an angel on earth," she wrote. "He was one of the goofiest, selfless, loving, warm-hearted, shih-tzu lovin, italian people I've ever met. I'm so thankful and grateful that Vic and I were such good friends."

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