Courtney Pivirotto was best known for her friendly smile and eagerness to share fitness advice with anyone who was trying to improve their lifestyle.
The 26-year-old from Eastport spent the last seven years working at local fitness centers and researching about nutrition, explained Jennifer Garcia of Westhampton Beach, who was Ms. Pivirotto’s manager when she worked at Planet Fitness in Riverhead.
“If someone asked her a question or interrupted her, she always took the time to talk to and educate people,” Ms. Garcia recalled this week about her friend, adding that Ms. Pivirotto was at the gym nearly every day and always ate healthy. “It was like she was meant to do that.”
Ms. Pivirotto was killed on Friday afternoon after her 2009 Nissan Altima was hit head-on by a 2008 Toyota Scion driven by 24-year-old Brandon McKee of Center Moriches on Lake Avenue in Northampton.
Ms. Pivirotto died at the scene while Mr. McKee, who was initially charged by authorities with driving under the influence of drugs, was airlifted by Suffolk County medevac to the Stony Brook University Hospital where he died at 9 a.m. the next day from his injuries.
“It’s just tragic the way it happened,” said Devan Farrell of Westhampton who attended Mercy-McGann High School in Riverhead with Ms. Pivirotto. “She was into fitness and she was on track.
“I think that’s what hurts the most,” she continued. “This was so unexpected, so it makes it tragic.”
Authorities said Ms. Pivirotto, who had been employed at Maximus Health + Fitness on East Main Street in Riverhead, was driving southbound on Lake Avenue, near the Wildwood Lake Bowl, at 3:23 p.m. Friday when she was hit head-on by Mr. McKee. Investigators said Mr. McKee, who was heading north, crossed over the double yellow line and veered into the oncoming lane of traffic, sideswiping a GMC SUV carrying two occupants before slamming into Ms. Pivirotto’s car. The two occupants of the GMC were uninjured, Southampton Town Police said.
Ms. Pivirotto was pronounced dead at the scene.
“She really tried her best to avoid the defendant,” said John Scott Prudenti, chief of the Vehicular Crimes Bureau at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, which was called to the accident scene, on Friday afternoon.
Police had charged Mr. McKee with driving while under the influence of drugs before airlifting him to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. As of earlier this week, investigators were still awaiting a blood analysis to determine the type of drugs Mr. McKee had in his system at the time of the fatal crash, according to Southampton Town Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa.
A day after her friend’s tragic death, Ms. Garcia started a GoFundMe online fundraiser, called the Courtney Pivirotto Fund, for Ms. Pivirotto’s family. As of Wednesday morning, $3,720 had been raised. Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/k7dhcsrg.
Ms. Garcia, who had known Ms. Pivirotto since 2008, explained that her instinct was to help her friend’s family, noting that Ms. Pivirotto talked about them often. “She had a great relationship with her mom and sister,” Ms. Garcia said. “She pretty much said her mom was her best friend.”
“I spoke to her mom this morning and she was obviously really upset,” Ms. Garcia said on Sunday. “I think both her and her sister are still in shock.”
Ms. Pivirotto’s mother, Janet Pivirotto, repeatedly said her daughter was full of life before the accident in an interview Wednesday afternoon.
“She was just full of life and she worked hard,” she said. “People would reach out to her because she had such knowledge on nutrition and exercise … She just loved life.”
Ms. Pivirotto was studying nutrition at Suffolk County Community College with plans to transfer to Long Island University’s nutrition program to receive a second master’s degree. She also spent her time volunteering in the nutrition department at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.
Ms. Pivirotto already had a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Dowling College and a Master’s degree in psychology from Adelphi University.
“Fitness, school, and family was her life,” Ms. Garcia said.
Ms. Pivirotto’s friends said they were always inspired by her love for learning and fitness.
“She was so sweet and she was just always friendly and kind to everyone,” Ms. Farrell said. “Even after we lost touch, I texted her one day to ask her fitness questions and she answered right away … she was really helpful. She loved fitness.”
Ms. Farrell noted that Ms. Pivirotto always posted fitness-related pictures on her social media accounts, many of which inspired her peers to live a healthy lifestyle. “Her posts were always about being healthy and learning to be strong,” Ms. Farrell recalled this week.
Ms. Pivirotto’s love of fitness also played a large role in her work life, according to hed friends. Officials at Maximus Health + Fitness in Riverhead did not return calls this week.
The wake service for Ms. Pivirotto was held on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Sinnickson’s Moriches Funeral Home on Main Street in Center Moriches. The funeral will begin at 9:30 a.m. today, Thursday, December 10, at the St. John the Evangelist RC Church on Ocean Avenue in Center Moriches, and burial will follow at the St. John of God Cemetery in Central Islip.
Ms. Pivirotto is survived by her mother and younger sister, Brianna Pivirotto, both of Eastport, and her grandmother, Marguerite McNeice, of Cutchogue.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to Project Heal at www.theprojectheal.org. The organization helps those who are recovering from eating disorders—a movement that Ms. Pivirotto supported.
Ms. Farrell said she will always miss her friend’s infectious smile and how she would always go out of her way to be kind to others.
“She grew into a beautiful person,” Ms. Farrell said. “We need more people like her in this world.”