12/24/2012 at 10:00 AM EST
Dylan Smith, one of PEOPLE's Heroes of the Year
for using his surfboard to help rescue six lives during Superstorm Sandy
in late October, drowned this weekend in a surfing accident in Puerto Rico, say news reports.
The body of the 23-year-old lifeguard from Queens, N.Y., along with his surfboard, was discovered floating in the Caribbean Sunday morning off the popular resort of Maria’s Beach near Rincon on the western coast of the island, according to police officials.
It was also reported a local resident spotted his body and dragged Smith to shore. Efforts by a doctor who tried to resuscitate him proved futile.
"The same sport – the sport of surfing – that he used to save all those people, it's so shocking that he perished that way,” FDNY Chief Michael Light, a family friend who's known Smith since childhood, told New York's Daily News
The night of the storm, Smith, along with Michael McDonnell, 51, a sales director for Chefs Diet, used a homemade rope bridge and his surfboard to transport the six people out of danger as fires from a gas-line explosion spread across the flooded Rockaway Peninsula.
McDonnell has since said he plans to launch a non-profit foundation commemorating the rescue called the Bridgerope Foundation for the Rockaways, according to CBS News