‘Christmas Miracle’ turns to tragedy

Priest succumbs to injuries

A beloved priest survived a car crash but couldn't go the distance.
×
A beloved priest survived a car crash but couldn't go the distance.

A local priest suffered a heart attack on Dec. 22 while driving and crashed his car just hundreds of feet from the Bayonne Medical Center. He was a stone’s throw from the emergency room when he crashed into several parked cars on 29th Street and Avenue E.

A Bayonne firefighter, Ed Skelly, happened to be nearby at the time of the crash and alerted first responders. A Bayonne police officer, Ed Taveras, who happened to be inside Bayonne Medical Center heard the call over the radio and ran across the street to find the priest unconscious in his vehicle. Skelly, Taveras, and a third responder, Officer Michal Kucza, removed the man from the vehicle while Taveras fetched a defibrillator from his patrol car. The men performed CPR while EMS responders from McCabe Ambulance, Ruben Martinez and Anna Anikiej, wheeled him on a stretcher across the lawn and into the emergency room.

The stars were aligned for Reverend Monsignor Francis R. Seymour, 81, to survive what was considered a “Christmas miracle.”  But the miracle ended in tragedy on Dec. 27 when  he died from his injuries. Seymour was a priest at St. Cecilia Church in Kearny.

A life in the church

Seymour was born in Bayonne and attended St. Mary, Star of the Sea Grammar School before attending St. Peter’s High School in Staten Island and Seton Hall University in South Orange and Immaculate Conception Seminary, then in Mahwah.

“Today this local Church of Newark mourns a remarkable, respected and much-loved priest whose devotion to the people of God and to his brother priests was always strong and ever-growing,” Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark, said in a statement. “Throughout his entire priestly ministry – spanning six decades – every county within the Archdiocese, and indeed, hundreds of thousands of people in close to 40 parishes experienced that love and caring, often at times of significant change or challenge.”

Seymour’s “devotion to the Church and to the priesthood was a hallmark of his life,” according to the statement. In 2013, on his 50-year anniversary as a priest, Seymour said, paraphrasing a quote by General Douglas MacArthur, “When I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the priesthood, and the priesthood, and the priesthood.”

“I want to extend my most heartfelt thanks to firefighter Skelly and officers Taveras and Kucza for performing their jobs so admirably,” said Bayonne Mayor James Davis on Dec. 23. “I also want to extend thanks to the medics from McCabe Ambulance, Ruben Martinez and Anna Anikiej, for their heroic efforts too.”

“Hundreds of thousands of people in close to 40 parishes experienced that love and caring, often at times of significant change or challenge.”– Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin

Common and treatable

When heart attacks strike, every second between the time of the attack and treatment is crucial for survival.

One in four deaths in the United States is caused by heart disease. That’s 610,000 Americans every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and one heart attack occurs every 42 seconds.

“Time is very important and we want to move things really fast,” Bayonne Medical Centers Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vinjay Singh told the Bayonne Community News in 2017. The hospital’s goal is to get a heart attack victim from the place he or she suffered the attack to the surgery table, or “door-to-balloon” in under 90 minutes because, as Singh said, “Every minute is tissue. Victim mortality rate goes up every minute, so you have to make sure you open up the arteries as soon as possible. So you need to be in a cath lab immediately and start perfusing [meaning to permeate with a balloon or stent] your heart again. That’s so important for us. I think that’s where the door-to-needle times are becoming more important for everybody.”

Rory Pasquariello can be reached at roryp@hudsonreporter.com