The day started with a refreshing swim in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New Jersey, not far from the town of Avon-by-the-Sea. Mark Batista, a veteran firefighter from New York City and a father of three, took his family to the beach on a Friday morning when the temperature of the salty ocean air was just below 70 degrees.
The next thing he knew, his daughter was running full speed for the water, splashing as she dove further into the deep blue. There was suddenly a rip current that could kill you. She was carried further and further from the shore by the swift current of the tiny creek.
According to her friends and the authorities, Mr. Batista hurried in to save her. The merciless ocean, however, dragged him beneath. Jim Long, a spokesperson for the Fire Department, said that Mr. Batista, a veteran fireman and EMT, had drowned.
A local hospital confirmed his death shortly after he arrived there. His daughter, whose identity and age remain unknown, made it through. A social media post written shortly before Mr. Batista’s death detailed their relationship. He posted a photo of his happy kid with her arms around his neck and the caption, “I can’t promise to be here the rest of your life” on Instagram in October.
But I do pledge my undying love to you for the rest of my life. According to preliminary data from the National Weather Service, Mr. Batista’s death was the second along the almost 130 miles of New Jersey shore this year.
The other person killed on Memorial Day weekend at Sandy Hook Beach was a youngster of 15 years old. Like the rest of us, he got swept out to sea by a rip current. According to the numbers and the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, there were no lifeguards present at either of the locations where the drownings happened.
The website for the town of Avon-by-the-Sea states that starting this coming Saturday, lifeguards will be on duty around the clock. The sheriff’s office released a statement on Facebook Friday, following Mr. Batista’s death, urging “all to please not to go in the water when there are no lifeguards on duty.”
Mr. Batista has been a member of the New York Fire Department’s EMS since 2008. Mr. Long added that before he became a firefighter, the man worked for around five years as an EMT. He most recently served with Engine Company 226 in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood.
“Firefighter Mark Batista’s death has left us devastated,” Mr. Long said in a statement. “Firefighter Batista was a dedicated public servant who spent 15 years serving in the FDNY,” he added. “We join his family in mourning his tragic passing.”
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A letter written to firefighters and emergency service personnel on Sunday states that Mr. Batista’s body was taken from the Middlesex County Medical Examiner and taken to the Vander Plaat Colonial Home in Fair Lawn, N.J. The memo was received by The New York Times.
Lenin Batista, Mr. Batista’s wife, took to Instagram to address relatives and friends. She penned, “I feel lost, heartbroken, and very afraid,” in Spanish. A veteran emergency care worker and Mr. Batista’s longtime friend, Janelle Rivera, stated later that she had not yet heard about his drowning on Sunday morning.
She sat down with her coffee and discovered she had dozens of unread messages on her phone. A image of Mr. Batista and a flag with purple and black stripes greeted her as she opened one. Mourning bunting, a drape of pleated fabric that hangs outside a firehouse to mourn the loss of a member, was decorated in these hues.
“I can’t promise to be here the rest of your life,” he wrote in October on Instagram along with a photo of his smiling daughter, her arms wrapped around his neck. “But what I can promise is to love you for the rest of mine.” https://t.co/L4AtImWkGV
— Kyle Clark (@KyleClark) June 12, 2023
Mrs. Rivera was taken aback. She recalled the time she and Mr. Batista met at the Queens E.M.S. Station 45. She recalled Mr. Batista’s near-fatal motorbike accident from only a few years ago, an incident that caused him to reevaluate his priorities in life.
In particular, she recalled how often he took his daughter to the beach. About a month ago, Ms. Rivera said she saw Mr. Batista at the Brooklyn Fire Department’s headquarters. His cherished white Porsche was parked outside. On that day, Mr. Batista talked about his wife as he always did.
“Every second of every day, he made sure his wife knew how much he cherished and valued her. And that meant so much to me, knowing someone in the world like that exists,” Ms. Rivera said. “Anytime I had a bad day, I could just look upon him to give me hope that it’s possible to be loved that way.”
“That his wife had to watch him go into that water and not come out, it kills me,” she added. “The life of his daughter is the result of his heroism, and that is everything a wife and mother could ever ask for.”
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