A Long Island community is mourning the loss of one of their high school teachers after he was involved in a skiing accident at a Vermont ski resort.
Jason Vitale was traveling at a “high rate of speed” on one of Killington Ski Resort’s intermediate slopes on Saturday when he lost control and slammed into a tree, Vermont State Police said in a press release.
At the time of the collision, Vitale, 48, was not wearing a helmet, according to authorities.
The Baldwin, New York, resident — who was married and had a young daughter named Katie — was quickly moved off the mountain by Killington Ski Patrol before being transported to Rutland Regional Medical Center.
On his way there, police said Vitale went into cardiac arrest and later died from his injuries at the hospital.
Vitale taught science at Mepham High School in Bellmore-Merrick. Two days after his tragic passing, the school’s principal Eric Gomez issued a statement to PEOPLE, expressing his condolences to the Vitale family.
“The Mepham family is mourning the tragic loss of one of its teachers. We will continue to provide one another with support and counseling during this difficult time,” Gomez said.
In a separate letter to the Mepham community obtained by PEOPLE, Gomez said grief counseling would be available when students return to school on Thursday and asked for everyone to “join me in sending prayers and condolences to the Vitale family during this difficult time.”
“The family is also grateful for everyone’s kindness and support. Let’s all continue to pray for them and provide one another with comfort during this difficult time,” he added.
Bellmore-Merrick Superintendent John DeTommaso also issued a statement to PEOPLE, calling Vitale a “well-respected” teacher who “cared about kids and families.”
“He will be missed by the entire Bellmore-Merrick community,” DeTommaso said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Vitale family.”
A wake for Vitale is scheduled for Thursday and Friday at Fullerton’s Funeral Home in Baldwin, while a funeral service is being held on Saturday morning at St. Christopher’s Church in Baldwin. Both services were made public to the Mepham community.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for Vitale’s loved ones to donate to Little Shelter Animal Rescue and Adoption Center in Huntington.
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In addition to teaching, Vitale served as the quality-of-life chair for the Baldwin Civic Association, according to the Long Island Herald.
In the wake of the tragedy, many of Vitale’s loved ones have paid tribute to the father and science teacher on Facebook. His childhood friend Chris Connelly wrote, “Rip my childhood friend Jason Vitale I’m heartbroken heaven gained an angel.”
Julian Wilson, one of Vitale’s former students, wrote: “Rest in Peace Mr. Vitale. He was one of my science teachers in high school, and I’m shocked and saddened at this news. You will be missed.”
Vitale’s father-in-law, Joseph Teta, also expressed his heartbreak, writing on Facebook, “Tragedy struck this weekend…the death of my son in law, Jason Vitale…a wonderful husband father who was killed in a skiing trip accident. Words can’t express the depths of this loss.”