Doctors believe teacher died from freshwater bacterial infection

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Doctors say they believe the sudden death of a beloved high school teacher and coach was caused by a freshwater bacterial infection.

News of Thomas Kacalski’s passing spread quickly among those who knew him. He was 43. Family, friends, and students were at Our Lady of Victory Basilica Monday morning, for a mass of Christian burial.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said that doctors believe Kacalski died from a freshwater bacterial infection. Days before he died, Kacalski was fishing at Woodlawn Beach. There is no way to tell where he contracted the bacterial infection.

Poloncarz said this situation is not connected to the tainted drinking water in Toledo, Ohio. You can read more about that situation here.

Kacalski was a social studies teacher and a soccer coach who was known to turn around failing programs. He was planning to be the soccer coach at Frontier High School.

As people poured out of the church remembering the man who touched so many, one co-worker said this is a big loss for the community.

Lackawanna High School Teacher Marty Hernick said, “He touched a lot of lives as evidenced by the number of people here, number of kids at the funeral parlor yesterday, different programs he was involved in. He’s one of those people that you find hard to replace. Yeah, his spirit will be in all those who follow.”

Family was very important to Kacalski, and friends say he was always talking about how proud he was of his son.

Poloncarz, who knows Kacalski’s family well, said that Kacalski did not have a spleen. He lost it in an accident when he was young. Poloncarz said if he had his spleen, he may have been able to process the toxins in his body better. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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