Over 100 lifeguards gathered to celebrate the life or Brian Kutil, a lifeguard with the Los Angeles County Fire Department who died Jan. 15 during the swimming portion of his recertification.

“Everyone said he would give you the shirt off his back,” AJ Lester, an ocean lifeguard specialist who served with Kutil, told Easy Reader News.

Kutil, 42, had been halfway down the lane completing the 500-meter swim exercise at Mira Costa High School when he stopped swimming.

Nearly 25 of his colleagues were on hand to help rescue and resuscitate him to no avail, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The cause of death is still unknown. It is believed to be the first on-duty death in the department's history, the news agency reported.

Kutil began his career as as an ocean lifeguard with the Los Angeles County Fire Department in 1994. Seven years later, he was promoted to full-time ocean lifeguard specialist and worked for many years at Dockweiler State Beach. Later, he began working as a deckhand on the rescue boats, which is where he felt most at home, Lester told the news agency. Most recently, Kutil worked Baywatch Del Rey, Santa Monica and Cabrillo.

"He was a great lifeguard, but when he got on the boats, he found his calling,” said Lester. “He took a lot of pride in it.”

Having grown up in El Segundo, Calif., Kutil was no stranger to water. A member of the water polo team in high school in the swim team in college, Kutil impressed his coaches and peers with his swimming ability a fact that added to the community's shock from his death.

"Some of my swimmers really looked up to him,” said Corey Stanbury, who coached Kutil at El Camino College. Read More