This brutal and unforgiving winter has sadly claimed the life of a neighboring resident even while he was enjoying a popular winter pastime.

While snowmobiling, Brian Petronaci, 39, from Hopatcong Boro, was found deceased at the scene after apparently crashing into a group of trees, according to the Jefferson Township Police Department.

The department was called at 1:40 a.m. this morning, Sunday, January 7, to assist the Hopatcong Police Department in locating a missing person “operating a snowmobile on Lake Hopatcong.”

According to a Jefferson police report, Petronaci likely “struck a rock in the area of Liffy Island, which is located across from the Lake Forrest Yacht Club.” The impact apparently caused his snowmobile to crash into trees.  Brian Petronaci was located and pronounced dead at the scene.

At approximately 2:30 a.m., according to Jefferson police, Cpl. Seeley of the township’s department “located the missing subject, with the assistance of Jefferson Township Fire Department Company No. 2 and Jefferson Township Office of Emergency Management (OEM).”

The following agencies assisted in the search and discovery:  Hopatcong Boro Police, Jefferson Township Fire Dept. Company No. 2, Jefferson Rescue Squad, Jefferson Township OEM, Morris County Office of the Medical Examiner, and Morris County Sheriff’s Office CIS.