According to fire officials, former Island Park Capt. Michael Fischer had arrived at Peter's Clam Bar on Sunday for the annual clam-eating contest when he went into cardiac arrest and died. The department mourned his loss Monday. NewsdayTV's Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Anthony Florio

A firefighters' fundraiser Sunday afternoon turned tragic when veteran Island Park Fire Department volunteer Michael Fischer went into cardiac arrest and died, fire officials said.

Fischer, 38, who was born and raised in Island Park, had participated in a morning training exercise and then rode on a company engine to Peter's Clam Bar on Long Beach Road, where firefighters were holding their annual clam-eating contest, this year to raise money for an infant with a rare form of cancer.

After arriving at the event, Fischer went into the bathroom to wash up, then returned to the dining area — and suffered an apparent heart attack, said former Island Park Fire Department Chief Anthony D'Esposito. 

Fischer's fire department colleagues and police medics worked about 25 minutes attempting to revive their fallen friend, but were unable to regain a pulse.

"There was so many of us around. So many paramedics, EMTs. Even our own doctor was there," said D'Esposito, adding that Fischer's passing is considered a line-of-duty death because of the morning training exercise. "So he was provided the best care that we could. We just couldn't bring him back."

An autopsy is being conducted by the Nassau Medical Examiner to determine an official cause of death. Fischer had no known heart issues, colleagues said. 

Making the loss of Fischer even more tragic, D'Esposito said, was that the contest was doubling as a fundraiser for the family of Oceanside Fire Commissioner Michael Graham, whose infant son Cooper was diagnosed with cancer in May. Seven-month-old Cooper Graham is undergoing treatment at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park for neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer, officials said.

Known as "Fish," Fischer graduated from West Hempstead High School, attended Nassau Community College, and worked for the Nassau County Department of Public Works, D'Esposito said. 

He was sworn in as a member of the Island Park Fire Department on Feb. 25, 2013, and served as a lieutenant from April 2018 to 2019 and as a captain from April 2019 to 2020.

"Fish was probably one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet," said former department chief and current village trustee Robert Tice. "You couldn't ask for a better person."

Fischer's family had a legacy in the department as his maternal grandfather, Artie Riehl, had been a longtime firefighter in Island Park. Fischer had Riehl's badge number tattooed on his calf, said the second deputy chief of the department Eric Gorton.

"You could be stranded on the highway three in the morning. No questions asked, he'd pick you up," Gorton said. "It's just he was one of the best guys in the department. By far."

D'Esposito said Fischer had spent Sunday morning training new department members, helping teach fundamentals like forcible entry, racking fire hoses and setting up new nozzles.

"We see these things happen," a still-shaken D'Esposito said. "But, it's always different when it's somebody who's part of your family. I've spent more than 20 years in the department and this is definitely one of the harder ones."

Fischer was predeceased by his parents, Michael and Patricia, and is survived by two sisters — Tiffany Fischer, of Island Park, and Allison George, of Pelham.

Family members did not respond to request for comment Monday.

A wake is planned for the Christopher T. Jordan Funeral Home in Island Park, although arrangements were still being made Monday.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman Monday ordered flags be flown at half-staff at all county facilities to honor Fischer.

"He died so young," D'Esposito said. "For some of the young members, it's the first friend who has died. When it happens so sudden, in front of your face, it's … it's just scary."

With Cecilia Dowd

Correction: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect title for Eric Gorton, who is the second deputy chief of the Island Park Fire Department.

A firefighters' fundraiser Sunday afternoon turned tragic when veteran Island Park Fire Department volunteer Michael Fischer went into cardiac arrest and died, fire officials said.

Fischer, 38, who was born and raised in Island Park, had participated in a morning training exercise and then rode on a company engine to Peter's Clam Bar on Long Beach Road, where firefighters were holding their annual clam-eating contest, this year to raise money for an infant with a rare form of cancer.

After arriving at the event, Fischer went into the bathroom to wash up, then returned to the dining area — and suffered an apparent heart attack, said former Island Park Fire Department Chief Anthony D'Esposito. 

Michael Fischer, a volunteer firefighter and former captain with the Island Park...

Michael Fischer, a volunteer firefighter and former captain with the Island Park Fire Department, died Sunday of an apparent heart attack following a training event and while attending a department fundraiser, fire officials said. Credit: Island Park Fire Department

Fischer's fire department colleagues and police medics worked about 25 minutes attempting to revive their fallen friend, but were unable to regain a pulse.

"There was so many of us around. So many paramedics, EMTs. Even our own doctor was there," said D'Esposito, adding that Fischer's passing is considered a line-of-duty death because of the morning training exercise. "So he was provided the best care that we could. We just couldn't bring him back."

An autopsy is being conducted by the Nassau Medical Examiner to determine an official cause of death. Fischer had no known heart issues, colleagues said. 

Making the loss of Fischer even more tragic, D'Esposito said, was that the contest was doubling as a fundraiser for the family of Oceanside Fire Commissioner Michael Graham, whose infant son Cooper was diagnosed with cancer in May. Seven-month-old Cooper Graham is undergoing treatment at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park for neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer, officials said.

Known as "Fish," Fischer graduated from West Hempstead High School, attended Nassau Community College, and worked for the Nassau County Department of Public Works, D'Esposito said. 

He was sworn in as a member of the Island Park Fire Department on Feb. 25, 2013, and served as a lieutenant from April 2018 to 2019 and as a captain from April 2019 to 2020.

"Fish was probably one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet," said former department chief and current village trustee Robert Tice. "You couldn't ask for a better person."

Fischer's family had a legacy in the department as his maternal grandfather, Artie Riehl, had been a longtime firefighter in Island Park. Fischer had Riehl's badge number tattooed on his calf, said the second deputy chief of the department Eric Gorton.

"You could be stranded on the highway three in the morning. No questions asked, he'd pick you up," Gorton said. "It's just he was one of the best guys in the department. By far."

D'Esposito said Fischer had spent Sunday morning training new department members, helping teach fundamentals like forcible entry, racking fire hoses and setting up new nozzles.

"We see these things happen," a still-shaken D'Esposito said. "But, it's always different when it's somebody who's part of your family. I've spent more than 20 years in the department and this is definitely one of the harder ones."

Fischer was predeceased by his parents, Michael and Patricia, and is survived by two sisters — Tiffany Fischer, of Island Park, and Allison George, of Pelham.

Family members did not respond to request for comment Monday.

A wake is planned for the Christopher T. Jordan Funeral Home in Island Park, although arrangements were still being made Monday.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman Monday ordered flags be flown at half-staff at all county facilities to honor Fischer.

"He died so young," D'Esposito said. "For some of the young members, it's the first friend who has died. When it happens so sudden, in front of your face, it's … it's just scary."

With Cecilia Dowd

Correction: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect title for Eric Gorton, who is the second deputy chief of the Island Park Fire Department.

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