Naftzinger's father, Roger, operated R&T Engine Co. out of the family's Jefferson Township residence for nearly three decades.
Following the death of his father, Naftzinger lost the garage and his income.
“He and his dad had a garage and his dad taught him everything he knew, and he lost everything shortly after his dad passed,” Rich Lorah said a day after the tragic death of the man he called his best friend.
Naftzinger, 46, known as “Wrecker” to his longtime friends in northwestern Berks County, fatally shot himself shortly after the three-bay garage where he operated his auto repair business on Camp Swatara Road in Bethel Township, PA, caught fire on Monday, May 20, state police said.
“He put everything into this one [the garage] and to see it burning was too much for him,” said Lorah, 56, of Womelsdorf. “He had stupid thoughts before, but he would always call me or message me and I would talk him through it.”
Troopers from the Reading station said Naftzinger of Bethel Township was found about 100 yards from the fire with a handgun next to his body.
He was pronounced dead at the scene at 1:37 p.m. by Jason Kantner, Berks County deputy coroner. The death was ruled a suicide, officials said.
Bethel Fire Company was dispatched at about 10:15 a.m. to the fire at 2790 Camp Swatara Road. The building was engulfed when they arrived.
Bethel Township police initially responded, then requested assistance from state police. A state police helicopter spotted Naftzinger in a wooded area.
Police on the ground went to the location and found Naftzinger deceased.
The building that houses Naftzinger's race cars, as well as some of his customers' vehicles, was extensively damaged.
Janssen Herb, a state police fire marshal, said investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.
“Everything he had was in there, that's why he did it,” Lorah said.
Lorah and his tight group of friends were devastated to learn Naftzinger had died.
“I've known him since he was 7 or 8,” Lorah said, struggling to make sense of the sudden loss of his friend.
Naftzinger is also survived by his girlfriend, Amie Jo Heffner, with whom he resided, and two daughters, who lived elsewhere, Lorah said.
“He was an amazing man and a mechanical genius who would do anything for anyone and I loved him for that and life without him is going to be hard,” Heffner said.
Lorah said Naftzinger and his girlfriend moved to his girlfriend's parents place.
“His girlfriend's dad gave him that garage and gave him another start,” Lorah said. “For years he struggled because his usual customers wouldn't come out to Frystown.”
Lorah said he and his buddy would get together every weekend for beers.
But lately business was so brisk at the shop that Naftzinger couldn't break free, he said.
“There were several weekends that he was that busy,” Lorah said. “I would go there to him and hang out and have a few beers while he worked.”
Lorah said he and Naftzinger and some of Naftzinger's cousins were one big family, treating one another's children as their own.
“Now a big piece is missing,” he said.