East Windsor fire chief deployed to St. Thomas for hurricane relief


East Windsor Vol. Fire Co. 2 Chief Mario Batista (left) hits the ground running in St. Thomas

It was a one-two punch in September from Hurricanes Irma and Maria that devastated St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands – so much so that calls for help continue to be answered.
One group answering that call is an emergency response team from New Jersey that counts East Windsor Volunteer Fire Co. 2 Chief Mario Batista as one of its 35 members.
Support Functions Team 8, sent to the beleaguered Caribbean island Nov. 6 to assist, also includes two doctors and four mental health specialists. Members of the New Jersey State Police, as well as a contingent of nurses, are also on the island.
“One of our biggest logistical challenges will be the distribution of medication,” said Chief Batista. “Our Emergency Medical Services team will help deliver and administer drugs for those suffering from diabetes, heart disease and other conditions. Some of the people have gone without this much needed medication because of the roadway destruction caused by the storm.”
Chief Batista said the NJ EMS Task Force will also tend to patients needing medical treatment and transfer them, if necessary, to other nearby islands via Coast Guard boat or Medivac helicopter, as the hospital was heavily damaged as well.
The team will provide assistance to residents of the island before being rotated out and replaced by another team ordered to the area by the Federal Emergency Management Administration. The task force is being housed on a U.S. Navy ship while deployed to the island.
“I’m proud to be a member of the team, doing whatever we can to help out,” said Chief Batista.