PERTH AMBOY, NJ—Friends, family, city officials and community members mourned the loss of Perth Amboy's Fire Chief, Abraham Pitre, on Wednesday, June 21.
Pitre apparently died in his home on the evening of Saturday, June 17, reportedly after committing suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
After speaking with police and firefighters, Councilman Fernando Gonzalez told NJ.com's Spencer Kent that Pitre took his own life.
The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office noted, “the circumstances surrounding the death of Fire Chief Pitre is not considered suspicious.”
Perth Amboy mourned the passing of Chief on Wednesday, June 21. The Perth Amboy Fire Department and Emergency Services held Procession and Ceremony.
Funeral Services and general public visitation services were held after the Procession at the Gustav J. Novak Funeral Home on Wednesday.
“We ask that you keep Abraham Pitre’s love ones and co-workers in your thoughts and prayers as we mourn this devastating loss,” said Mayor Wilda Diaz in a statement.
In memory of Pitre, the PAFD headquarters displayed Pitre’s turnout gear and car next to an American Flag flying at half-staff.
"Chief Abraham Pitre truly knew the definition of brotherhood in the fire department and truly knew what it was like to be a positive role model in the community," Acting Perth Amboy Fire Chief Edward Mullen said, according to the Home News Tribune.
Perth Amboy Deputy Police Chief Larry Cattano told reporter Suzanne Russell that Pitre was a "community firefighter" who touched many lives.
Abraham Pitre serviced the Perth Amboy Fire Department for over 24 years. He was sworn in as New Jersey’s first Hispanic Fire Chief in April of 2014.
The day Pitre was sworn in as Fire Chief, Wilda Diaz justified why Pitre was the man for the job.
"I have full confidence in you and I am proud of all of our firefighters. You are the first Latino career Fire Chief in New Jersey, and you'll make a difference in the lives of many people," said Diaz, according to the Amboy Guardian.
Prior to his career as acting Fire Chief, Pitre was a member of the Perth Amboy First Aid Squad and the Volunteer Fire Department. He was also a member of the Emergeny Service Bureau with the Middlesex County Office of Emergency Management.
Pitre first hand experienced the tragedy that was 9/11. During a memorial service for 9/11 victims, Pitre recalls looking for his friend and fellow first-responder, Richard Rodriquez, in New York City.
"I'll never forget the innocent lives lost, I'll never forget the first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice that day, I'll never forget Richie Rodriguez," Pitre said, according to a 2013 article by NJ.com's Brian Amaral.
"All I ask from each and every one of you, whatever reason you find in your heart, is never to forget."
Pitre lived in Perth Amboy with his wife Krystyna Sulikowski-Pitre, and leaves behind three children: Philip, Michael, and Kalep.
Following the news of Pitre’s passing, the community flooded social media with thoughts and prayers.
The Perth Amboy Fire Department Facebook page posted:
As you may be aware we suffered a huge loss yesterday, with the untimely passing of our Chief Abraham Pitre. We will honor his memory by continuing to uphold our solemn oath to serve and protect, remembering those that lay the path to our future. May you rest in peace Chief. Know the love, respect & loyalty we have for you. We ask everyone to lift up Chief Pitre & his family in prayer as we grieve together through this difficult time.
Statistics show that firefighters in the United States are three times more likely to commit suicide than to die in the line of duty.
That data comes from the government funded organization, Nation Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), an organization works to promote research that dives into this pressing issue.
In 2015, a national study of 1,000 firefighters conducted by Florida State University researchers showed that nearly half of the respondents said they had suicidal thoughts at one or more points in their firefighting career. Furthermore, approximately 15% reported one or more suicide attempts.
This published study is not conclusive and the authors, H. Stanley, Melanie A. Hom, Christopher R. Hagan and Thomas E. Joiner, Ph.D, strongly recommend more research in this topic to fully understand high suicidal tendencies among firefighters.
“We believe this research is a first step to address this growing concern within the fire service and direct more attention to making psychological support available to our nation’s firefighters,” said Chief Ronald J. Siarnicki, Executive Director of the NFFF.