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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Firefighter drowns after rushing into the sea to save his daughter

By Chelsia Rose Marcius

The day began with a dip into the cool Atlantic waters along the New Jersey shore near Avon-by-the-Sea.

Mark Batista, a father of three and a veteran member of the New York Fire Department, brought his family to the beach Friday morning, when the salty ocean air fell just shy of 70 degrees. Soon after, his daughter made a beeline toward the waves, splashing as she waded deeper into the dark blue.

Suddenly, a deadly rip current emerged. The narrow, fast-moving stream swept her farther and farther away from the shore.

Batista rushed in to rescue her, friends and authorities said. But the ocean, in all its cruelty, pulled him under.

Batista, 39, a longtime firefighter and emergency medical technician, drowned, according to Jim Long, a spokesperson for the Fire Department.

He was taken to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead. His daughter, whose name and age have not been released, survived.

Their relationship was described in a social media post a few months before Batista’s death. “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.”

Batista’s drowning was the second along the nearly 130-mile New Jersey coastline this year, according to preliminary data from the National Weather Service. The other victim was a 15-year-old boy who died over Memorial Day weekend at Sandy Hook Beach. He was also pulled out to sea by a rip current.

In both cases, no lifeguards were on duty where the drownings occurred, according to the data and the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office.

Lifeguards at Avon-by-the-Sea will begin to work full time on Saturday, according to the community’s website. On Friday, after Batista’s death, the sheriff’s office issued a statement on Facebook warning “all to please NOT go in the water when there are no lifeguards on duty.”

Batista first joined the New York Fire Department Emergency Medical Services in 2008. He spent about five years as an EMT before becoming a firefighter, Long said. He was most recently assigned to Engine Company 226 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.

“We are heartbroken to learn about the death of Firefighter Mark Batista,” 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.”

Batista’s body was transferred Sunday from the Middlesex County medical examiner to Vander Plaat Colonial Home in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, according a memo obtained by The New York Times that was sent to Fire Department firefighters and emergency service workers.

Batista’s wife, Lenin Batista, posted a message to friends and family on Instagram. “I feel lost, heartbroken and very afraid,” she wrote in Spanish.

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