Fallen FDNY hero Christopher Raguso — killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq during a stint with the Air National Guard — often sought refuge from the haunting memories of his service aboard his boat.
Now, the family he left behind can try to do the same.
Fresh off a major overhaul — provided free of charge by a fellow volunteer firefighter — Raguso’s Edgewater 185 power boat was presented back to Raguso’s wife, two young daughters, and brother Sunday afternoon on Long Island.
He’s seen a lot of death and destruction, and he had that thousand-yard stare a lot,” John Raguso told The Post of his late son.
“The smile on his face was ear-to-ear as he took his wife and his two little girls out there and went water-skiing and clamming and catching sea robins, and just exploring. That’s what he loved to do,” he said.
The elder Raguso, 68, bought the 18-foot, fiberglass-hull boat as a Christmas gift for his son a few years back after he served a harrowing tour in Somalia.
“In 2015, it was like a shooting gallery over there,” said John Raguso. “When he came back from that deployment, he was really stressed out.”
Going out on the boat with his wife, Carmela, and two daughters, 6-year-old Mila and 5-year-old Eva, “was something that really took the hard edge off of his life,” Raguso said of his son.
But before long, the 18-year-old vessel’s engine started to act up.
So when his son shipped out to Iraq in January — on what was supposed to be his final tour — Raguso thought he’d surprise him by having the craft’s engine replaced in time for his return. That return never came.
Raguso was one of seven Air National Guardsmen killed in March when their chopper crashed while supporting coalition forces. Raguso, 39, was a master sergeant in the 106th Rescue Wing, an FDNY lieutenant, and a volunteer firefighter in Commack. Also killed was FDNY Fire Marshal Christopher “Tripp” Zanetis.
In the tragedy’s wake, his dad forged ahead with the boat’s overhaul, vowing to pass the boat along to his son’s widow and brother.
Bill Witzke — owner of the Albertson Marina and, like Raguso, a volunteer firefighter — completed the $2,500 job free of charge.
“New engine, new steering, new gauges, new everything,” gushed Raguso. “And he said, ‘John, I wouldn’t take a nickel from you.’ ”
The boat was returned to the family Sunday.
“There’s nothing that I’ve ever done in my life that has prepared me for the worst thing that has ever happened to me,” said the elder Raguso. “But we’re trying.”
-NY Post. June 11th 2018