On the day after Christmas, Adrian Munoz took his 11-year-old son, AJ, fishing on the Pacific Ocean. On Dec. 30, Munoz began experiencing shoulder pain and started vomiting and had a fever. During a visit to urgent care, he was told he had a strained shoulder and the flu.
Just days later, on Jan. 3, Munoz, 37, of Chula Vista, California, died after contracting necrotizing fasciitis (commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria), an aggressive bacterial infection that targets tissue under the skin.
Leaving behind his wife and high school sweetheart, Luisa, along with AJ, who turns 12 on Wednesday, and his 9-year-old daughter, Bella, the entire family and community are left heartbroken and baffled as to how this tragedy could have occurred.
“Apparently, he cut his hand when he was fishing,” a friend of the Munoz family, Silvia Rodriguez, tells PEOPLE. “They think the bacteria might have come from the cut and he was dealing with fish.”
Yet the cut had no signs of an infection, she says, so “everyone is baffled” as to what could have caused it.
After Munoz’s trip to urgent care, his health continued to deteriorate, so Luisa took him to the emergency room.
“He was very lethargic and wasn’t getting better,” says Rodriguez. “They admitted him right away and figured out he had that bacteria. Everything snowballed from there.”
His kidneys were failing and two surgeries revealed how deep the infection really was. His blood then became septic.
“Everything started shutting down from there,” she adds. “I think that’s what ultimately took his life.”
Rodriguez started a GoFundMe page to help the family with expenses during this time.
Munoz, who would have turned 38 on Sunday, is remembered as a man who cared deeply for his family and others.
“He was always willing to give the shirt off his back for anybody,” says Rodriguez. “He was goofy, energetic and the life of the party.”
Munoz, who worked in the lighting and sound field, coached his children’s soccer games and taught them how to surf and loved going on family vacations. He was also deeply in love with his wife, Luisa.
“You could see their love from a mile away,” Rodriguez says. “It was a beautiful love and it was inspiring.”
While the family is still in a state of shock, they are also grateful for the 600 people who attended his memorial service two days after his death.
“He was loved by so many people,” says Rodriguez. “It’s heartbreaking.”