A decorated FDNY firefighter from Long Beach, who died in an accident while vacationing with his family in North Carolina, was remembered Thursday for his selfless heroism, whether saving people on the water or from burning buildings.
Hundreds of family, friends, neighbors and uniformed members of the FDNY and NYPD poured into Towers Funeral Home in Oceanside for the wake of Casey Skudin, who died Friday when a 2,000-pound tree limb fell on his car as he drove with his wife, Angela, and sons Ben, 19, and C.J., 10, up the driveway of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. One of his sons was seriously injured, while the other son and his wife sustained minor injuries.
"Casey Skudin was an amazing father and husband," said his cousin Cliff Skudin, in an interview outside the funeral home. "He was a loving family member who was an outdoorsman, lifeguard and fireman. He was always there for everybody and anybody and always helped out … He was an all-around awesome human. If you needed help, he was there."
FDNY firefighter Dan Hamelburg of Long Beach, who also attended the wake, remembered Skudin as an incredible swimmer who saved countless lives on the water. Skudin, who worked as a Town of Hempstead lifeguard for two decades, won multiple awards for rescues off the Rockaways, and for assisting residents during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
"When you worked with him during the summer, people were in good hands," Hamelburg said. " … He's one of those guys who was always level headed. Just a good guy to talk to."
Casey Skudin and his family are longtime fixtures of Long Beach, owning and operating a popular surf shop in the beachfront community. The family also runs Surf For All, a nonprofit that provides surfing lessons to children with autism and other disabilities.
The 16-year FDNY veteran, who was assigned to Ladder 137 in Rockaway Park, Queens, had been on vacation last week to celebrate his birthday — he would have turned 46 on Sunday — and Father's Day.
Casey Skudin was killed instantly while C.J. sustained a partially collapsed lung and compound fractures in his spine and sternum, Angela Skudin told Newsday. Ben, a rising junior at Cornell University, suffered a black eye. Angela Skudin suffered minor injuries.
"I can't make sense of what happened," said Hugh Raiten, a friend whose family runs Jimmy Hays Steak House, a popular Island Park restaurant often frequented by the Skudin family. " … It was a pleasure to be a part of their lives."
Former Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman said outside the funeral home that Skudin was his Cross-Fit coach every Sunday morning.
"He'd bust my chops while playing the Foo Fighters and we'd have a great time talking about everything from family to everything that's hard and everything that's worth it," said Schnirman, who served one term as Nassau County comptroller. "He's just a guy who gets what really matters."
An FDNY ceremony will be conducted at Towers on Friday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., followed by an FDNY procession to All Souls Crematory in East Elmhurst, where a private service will continue at 2:30 p.m.
Skudin’s family, friends and FDNY colleagues will also honor his life Sunday morning with a “paddle-out” off Lido Beach. The floating memorial consists of surfers, paddle boarders, kayakers and others who paddle out from the shore to offer words of remembrance about the deceased.
A GoFundMe page established to help the Skudin family had raised more than $79,000 by Thursday evening.