A decorated New York firefighter was killed in a horrific accident at a North Carolina tourist attraction after his family fell on the SUV he and his family had driven in, according to his family.
The firefighter, Casey Skudin, who joined Ladder Company 137 in Rockaway, Queens, was in North Carolina with his wife and children to celebrate his 46th birthday when he died Friday afternoon. His birthday would have fallen on Father’s Day.
“Our family will heal for eternity,” his wife, Angela Skudin, said in an Instagram post.
In a statement, the New York Fire Department called Mr Skudin’s death a “terrible tragedy and loss” and said it would support his family and colleagues.
The accident took place near a gate at the Biltmore Estate, a popular tourist attraction in Asheville, when a windstorm blew down a heavy limb from a tree that hit the vehicle, the estate said in a statement.
Sir. Skudin’s wife and older child escaped from the car without major injuries; his younger child was hospitalized with minor injuries, Skudin said in his Instagram post.
“This is a devastating tragedy and we are deeply saddened by this news. Our deepest thoughts are with the family and their loved ones and we are offering assistance at this time,” said Biltmore Estate. The estate is a sprawling, 8,000-acre resort and the former castle of George W. Vanderbilt.
Sir. Skudin, who had been a janitor in his fire academy class, had worked at a separate engine company in Brooklyn before moving to the ladder house in Rockaways, where he was a skilled rescue swimmer, according to the fire department. In 2009, he was awarded the department’s Fire Chiefs Association Memorial Medal after going into the water, unbound, to rescue a drowning surfer from 96th Street Beach.
Mr. Skudin came from a well-known surf family that runs several popular surf shops and surf classes in Long Beach, Long Island and Rockaway under the name Skudin Surf. A lifelong surfer, he was the lifeguard for the city of Hempstead, NY, for two decades, said his cousin Cliff Skudin.
“Casey was an incredible human being,” he said. “This is so tragic, and it’s beyond anything you can ever imagine.”
Mr. Skudin was constantly outdoors, his cousin said, and he used to take his family to Montauk, NY, or out hiking. He competed regularly in triathlons, he was on the fire department surf team, and he was also a CrossFit trainer.
On Sunday, Skudin Surf put together a memorial where friends and loved ones could drop by and sign Mr. Skudin’s surfboard, Cliff Skudin said. The store plans to have a ceremonial paddle-out in his memory on June 26 at Lido West Beach.