A decorated FDNY veteran from Long Beach who died after a tree branch fell on a car in North Carolina carrying him, his wife and two sons, was remembered over the weekend as a loving husband and "everything a father should be."
Casey Skudin, who would have turned 46 Sunday, had been on a family vacation Friday to celebrate his birthday and Father's Day when a 2,000-pound tree limb fell on the vehicle as he drove his wife, Angela, and sons Ben, 19 and C.J., 10, up the driveway of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.
Skudin was killed instantly, Angela Skudin told Newsday on Saturday. The four were transported to Mission Hospital in Asheville, said a spokeswoman for the Biltmore Estate. The two sons were both injured, one seriously and Angela Skudin suffered scratches, she said online.
“I knew my husband was gone,” Angela Skudin said. “So I just grabbed his hand and told him he was the best. He was the best dad.”
Skudin was a 16-year FDNY veteran assigned to Ladder 137 in the Rockaways, a spokesman for the department said. He had been decorated twice for bravery. One of those commendations came after Skudin helped rescue a surfer caught in extremely strong currents and frigid water in November 2009.
“He was a great guy, great firefighter,” Joseph Durkin, also an FDNY firefighter, said Sunday as he fought back tears outside the firehouse where he worked with Skudin
“Loved his job, loved this firehouse," Durkin said. "He was a guy you could count on.”
Angela Skudin said the trip to North Carolina was the family's first vacation since the coronavirus pandemic. Casey Skudin mapped out an outdoorsy itinerary filled with hiking and white-water rafting. The family had planned to go to an indie rock concert Saturday, she said.
“He was filled with life,” said Casey Skudin’s cousin, Cliff Skudin, also of Long Beach. “He loved taking his kids on trips and hikes. He was a superdad. He was everything a father should be.”
A spokeswoman for Biltmore Estate, an Asheville tourist attraction that includes a historic mansion, said high winds caused by a “weather event” were to blame for the fallen tree and that an investigation was underway.
“This is a devastating tragedy, and we are deeply saddened by this news,” the Biltmore said in a statement. “Our heartfelt thoughts are with the family and their loved ones, and we are offering assistance at this time.”
Skudin's son Ben, a rising junior at Cornell University, suffered a black eye. C.J. remained hospitalized Saturday night due to a partially collapsed lung and compound fractures in his spine and sternum, according to Angela Skudin. She called her sons' surviving the ordeal “a literal miracle.”
Cliff Skudin said his cousin, a fellow surfer, was a rock of his community, not only as a firefighter, but also as Town of Hempstead lifeguard. The Skudins are also a staple of the Long Beach community: Cliff Skudin is the co-owner of the well-known Skudin Surf surfing school and Angela Skudin owns The Codfish Cowboy, a curated goods shop.
“Long Beach is our family, the FDNY brothers and sisters are our family, the Town of Hempstead is our family,” Cliff Skudin. “That is the only thing that might give us comfort. So many people loved him and will be there for Angela and the kids.”
The family was still making memorial service arrangements on Sunday, Cliff Skudin said, but he has already decided to honor Skudin at 9 a.m. on June 26 with a “paddle-out” off Lido Beach. A paddle-out is a floating memorial consisting of surfers, paddle boarders, kayakers and others who go out on the water to offer words of remembrance about the deceased.
Casey Skudin juggled daily household chores and supported his wife in her interior design business while she battled Lyme disease, which kept her bedridden for 18 months, she said. She was finally back on her feet in time for their family vacation.
The two — neighbors living across the street from each other at the time in Point Lookout — met 20 years ago, Skudin said. Ben was an infant when his mother wed Skudin, and on his 18th birthday, Skudin legally adopted him.
“The greatest gift he ever gave me was he adopted our oldest son Ben and made us a complete family,” said Angela Skudin.
“I have absolutely no regrets,” she said. "If I knew this is how it ended, I would do it all again, because just even having that [connection] with someone for a moment — like some people don't get that in a lifetime, and I had that for 20 years."
With Debbie Egan-Chin and Matthew Chayes