FDNY - Fireman Martin Simmons Ladder 111
A beloved Brooklyn firefighter drowned in frigid Lake Tahoe during a desperate attempt to save his 10-year-old son, who was fighting to stay afloat in the choppy waters after suffering a leg cramp.
Martin Simmons, 41, a 17-year-veteran out of Bedford-Stuyvesant's Ladder Co. 111, was lost in the murky tide before rescuers could reach him.
His exhausted brother-in-law had also jumped in to help, and was barely treading water as he gripped the child, who had lost consciousness, witnesses said. Both were rescued, and the boy had to be resuscitated. "It was the biggest waves I've ever seen on the lake," said area resident Anthony Battezzato, 18, who helped bring the survivors to shore. Monday's tragedy came two weeks into Simmons' long-anticipated vacation to spend time with his wife, Judi's, relatives in Nevada. "He was so excited about the trip," Ladder 111 Capt. Steve Berube said of the doting father of three sons. "This is extremely difficult for us." The family had been cruising on a 20-foot boat when they stopped for a swim. The boy, Kevin, jumped into the water - where the temperature below the surface was about 52 degrees - just after 4 p.m. and quickly cramped up. "All we could see was a man and a boy in the water," Battezzato said. "People on the boat started screaming, 'Help! Help!" Kevin was "motionless" and "his uncle was dead tired," the teen said. "We didn't know until 15 minutes after that there was another person down." Simmons' body was flown to JFK yesterday. "I loved him. He will be missed," said firefighter Joe Honan, a 15-year colleague. Simmons, who lived in Nesconset, LI, lost five firehouse colleagues on 9/11, and served as the master of ceremonies during each anniversary. He coached his sons' baseball teams and "lived for those boys," Berube said.