FDNY firefighter, EMT drowns trying to save daughter in riptide
“He would give his life for anyone": Neighbors in the Brooklyn community are shocked over the death of Firefighter Mark Batista
By Rebecca White, Nicholas Williams
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — An off-duty New York City firefighter who drowned trying to rescue his daughter from a riptide dedicated his life to saving others, his stunned friends and neighbors told the Daily News on Sunday.
The FDNY’s Mark Batista lost his life jumping in the ocean to save his teenage daughter Friday morning at Avon-by-the-Sea, a New Jersey beach town south of Asbury Park.
First responders called to the scene pulled the struggling girl from the water, and she was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
The body of 39-year-old Batista was found more than an hour later by a Coast Guard helicopter about 50 feet from shore, according to NJ101.5.com, which reported that the girl is 15 years old.
“He gave his life saving his daughter,” said Dalio Sanchez, their neighbor on Stasia St. in Teaneck, N.J.
“He would give his life for anyone. He saved lives for a living,” Sanchez said. “Being a fireman was his passion.”
At Batista’s home, a uniformed fireman answered the door Sunday and said the family did not want to speak to anyone.
“His wife is distraught. She keeps saying, ‘What am I going to do without him? Why didn’t I go to the beach with them?’” Sanchez said. “She said, ‘I want to wake up from this dream.’
“His little daughter is in shock. She kept asking ‘When is Daddy going to open his eyes?’” he added. “This is shocking for all of us in the neighborhood.”
The father of three was a 15-year veteran of the FDNY. He was a member of Engine 226 on State St. in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, and previously served as an EMT.
Batista’s oldest son was home on a 10-day leave from the U.S. Army, neighbors said.
Oman Almuntaser, who owns a deli a block away from Batista’s firehouse, described the firefighter as “just a great person” who naturally would jump in rough surf to try and rescue his daughter.
“He dedicated his every single day to this and he’s known for that,” the deli owner said.
He added that Batista’s fellow firefighters all would echo the same sentiment about their fallen colleague.
“I know all of them there. I grew up here,” he said. “I’m very close to them. They are amazing people.”
No lifeguards were on duty Friday morning in Avon. Local police told NJ101.5.com that Batista’s daughter was swimming around 8:35 a.m. when the tragedy occurred.
A huge response to reports of the father and daughter in distress came from rescue swimmers, divers, boats, jet skis, emergency medical services, police and drone operators from local communities, the State Police and the Coast Guard, the Area Network of Shore Water Emergency Responders told NJ101.5.com. The Network provides water rescue services to Avon and nearby locales.
The Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office issued a warning after Batista’s drowning cautioning people not to go in the water if no lifeguards are present.
Lifeguards are on duty daily starting next Saturday, according to the Avon-by-the-Sea website.