Angela Skudin shared with FOX 5 NY the last photo she and her beloved husband Casey Skudin took together. Less than three hours after it was taken, the highly decorated FDNY firefighter and father of two lost his life in a freak accident in North Carolina when a tree limb fell on the minivan he and his family were driving in.
"He didn't just sound like the best person," Angela said. "He literally was the best person."
The widow spoke to us on the phone from right outside the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, where the accident happened last Friday. The family was on a trip Casey planned to celebrate what would've been his 46th birthday on Father's Day.
Angela said her selfless husband, who lived for his family, died the way he would've chosen — with everyone else spared.
"I don't know how I lived or how my children lived — everyone was knocked out," she said. "I crawled out the windshield, went around, held his hand, told him he was the best husband and the best father and I slid his wedding ring off and I put it on my finger."
Angela and her 19-year-old son managed to make it out unharmed. Her 10-year-old son was hospitalized for spinal and respiratory injuries but he is expected to make a full recovery.
"It's just one of those things that makes you realize how precious life is," she said.
The FDNY has arranged for an honorary transfer to bring Casey from LaGuardia Airport to Towers Funeral Home in Oceanside. A wake and funeral will be held later this week. Angela plans to deliver the eulogy.
Bunting adorns Ladder 137 where the 16-year veteran worked.
A memorial continues to grow on the boardwalk in Long Beach, where Casey was from.
A GoFundMe campaign is gaining traction to raise money for the family.
Casey was someone both blood relatives and brothers in the fire department looked up to, according to FDNY Firefighter Ian Skudin, Casey's cousin.
"When you see the last name Skudin, everyone was like, 'Cousins with Casey?'" Ian said. "And it was an honor to say, 'Yes.'"
"You can't put it into words," Cliff Skudin, Casey's cousin, said. "How does this happen?"
While Angela said it may never make sense, she's trying to stay strong.
"He was my best friend," she said. "The love of my life."
A paddle-out is planned in Casey's memory this Sunday at the Lido West Beach.