Fire Chief for FL Tribe Dies from COVID-19

May 2, 2020
Don DiPetrillo, the fire chief for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, died Thursday from COVID-19 after he tested positive for the virus and was admitted to the hospital last month.

Editor's note: Find's complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic here.

For seven weeks, a veteran firefighter battled complications caused by the new coronavirus.

Don DiPetrillo, the fire chief for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, was admitted to the hospital March 10 after testing positive for the disease. Then he was sent home with the hope he’d recover there.

That never happened. Instead, DiPetrillo was admitted again to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood two days later. DiPetrillo died late Thursday evening, said tribe spokesman Gary Bitner. He was 70.

DiPetrillo had been fire chief for the tribe since 2008. Bitner said DiPetrillo is believed to have come in contact with the deadly virus in early March when he was at a convention about life-saving initiatives in Tampa.

Bitner said the longer DiPetrillo survived COVID-19, the more he and others believed he would beat this dreadful disease.

“We’ve all been thinking he’s hanging on and maybe he’s going to rally,” Bitner said. “That was the hope. Everybody was hoping as much as they could possibly hope. Everybody thought that way. He was a really beloved member of the team.”

DiPetrillo began his firefighting career in 1973. He was the fire chief and emergency management director for the town of Davie from 2001 to 2007. And before that, he was an assistant fire chief at the Fort Lauderdale Fire and Rescue Department.

“Don played a major role in bringing a new level of professionalism to the fire department operations of Seminole Fire Rescue,” said William Latchford, the executive director of public safety for the Seminole Tribe of Florida. "Chief DiPetrillo understood that success in life was about just being nice. If you care for people, the rest will take care of itself.

DiPetrillo graduated from Barry University with a bachelor’s degree in public administration. He obtained an associate’s degree in fire science from Broward College. DiPetrillo graduated from McArthur High School in Hollywood in 1967. In 1971 he joined the U.S. Navy and was honorably discharged to the U.S. Reserves the following year.

DiPetrillo is survived by his mother, Joan; his son, Tyson DiPetrillo of Davie; his brothers David and John, and his girlfriend, Lindy Maracic.

This is the latest coronavirus death to befall the Seminole Tribe community.

On April 17, the recently retired Seminole police chief, Calvin Harrison, died. A former tribal member, Don Osceola, a decorated Vietnam veteran, died Wednesday.


©2020 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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