JERSEY CITY, N.J. Shokry Guirguis took his job fixing ambulances seriously, but the Edison resident was always ready with a quick joke and a smile, according to his co-workers at Jersey City Medical Center.
"He had a way of making a situation better. He had a keen sense of humor when joking with staff," said Christopher Rinn, the emergency medical squad director. "More than a coworker, he was a father figure to many young staffers."
Guirguis, 65, was killed Saturday when an ambulance he was repairing rolled backward, pinning him and crushing his chest. Coworkers found him just before 11 a.m. in the EMS garage and he was pronounced dead at Jersey City Medical Center. Guirguis had been a senior mechanic for the squad for 17 years.
"He was an angel," his wife Magda Guirguis said yesterday, surrounded by family and friends at her Edison home. "He was the best husband, best father and best grandfather. He gave without any limitation."
Guirguis had apparently switched shifts with a coworker that day to build up extra hours for an upcoming vacation to his native Egypt, his nephew Mike Guirguis said.
A vigil Saturday night at the EMS garage on Central and Prospect avenues in Jersey City drew about 100 people, his family said.
Guirguis was working alone in the garage when the ambulance lurched back and its front tire pinned him, said Stan Eason, a Jersey City spokesman. The emergency brake was not on and there were no restraints on the wheels, he said. Guirguis may have been working on a safety switch on the ambulance when the accident occurred, Eason said.
EMS workers arriving at the locked garage saw Guirguis under the ambulance and called police, Eason said. Firefighters and police officers broke into the building, and Guirguis' coworkers transported him to the emergency room, he said.
Eason said police did not know how long Guirguis was under the ambulance, but said Guirguis was last seen about 45 minutes before the accident.
The city police and the state Occupational Health and Safety Administration are investigating the incident, Eason said.
For the family, the day Guirguis died was especially poignant because it was the same day his brother, Adel Guirguis, died two years ago, said Adel's son Mike.
Guirguis' family described him as a deeply religious man who gave frequently to St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in East Brunswick. He prayed every day to keep his loved ones safe, his wife said.
Guirguis had moved from Alexandria, Egypt, to the United States in 1969 to seek a better life. He and his wife had a son, Robert, and settled in Central Jersey along with most of their large, tight-knit family, Magda Guirguis said. The family welcomed a new addition four months ago when grandson Andrew was born, she said.
The proud grandfather spent his free time looking after his grandson, on his computer and helping his wife around the house, Magda Guirguis said.
"I can't imagine my life without him," she said. "He was a piece of me."
A service is scheduled for tonight from 7 to 9 at St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church, 433 Riva Ave. in East Brunswick. The funeral is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday morning at Rosedale & Rosehill Cemetery, 355 East Linden Ave. in Linden.