Elderly Man Severely Burned After Catching Fire At Long Island Church

Holy Family Church Priests Arrive In Nick Of Time To Make Save

HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island priest was being credited with saving the life of one of his parishioners on Thursday after an elderly man accidently set himself on fire near the altar.

“When I got into the church the gentleman was on fire back towards the chapel area. I grabbed the fire extinguisher, put him out and tried to keep him calm until paramedics and fire department arrived,” Father Henry Reid told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.

1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera speaks with the priests who saved the man

A church regular, 89-year-old Vito Badalamente is now fighting for his life, after catching fire near the altar of Holy Family Catholic Church early Thursday morning. Nassau County Police Detective Sgt. James Skopek said his clothes caught fire while lighting candles in the back of the church.

“The fire alarm was activated from within the church,” Skopak told WCBS 880 reporter Sophia Hall.

WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reports from Hicksville

The emotional priest and pastor offered grim details of a human tragedy that has overwhelmed their Hicksville parish.

“We are not sure how, but his clothing seemed to have caught fire while he was lighting a votive candle by the blessed mother statue,” Pastor Gerard Gentleman said told McLogan.

The senior citizen had collapsed near the sacristy with his clothes ablaze as Father Reid sprang into action.

“He was awake and aware. He was not communicative, just groaning. It was a little scary,” Father Reid said.

Badalamente was rushed to the burn unit at Nassau University Medical Center in critical condition. His stricken family was his side. Sixty percent of his body was scorched by the flames.

“Without the priest’s quick action the 89-year-old would have succumbed to those burns, absolutely,” Detective Sgt. Skopek told McLogan.

“Our whole parish community is certainly affected by something so sad and so tragic to happen inside the church,” Pastor Gentleman added.

The victim’s neighbors were stunned.

“We will pray for him for a speedy recovery. It is very sad,” Elaine Ianazzi said.

“To the priests of the parish, thank you for being around and helping out this man,” Noreen Cullagh added.

Some are calling Father Reid a savior. He said helping his parishioners is the privilege of being a priest.

Police are investigating whether the 89-year-old victim may have fallen into the candles or if his sleeve caught fire while lighting them. He was alone in the church when the accident happened.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

More from Sophia Hall

One Comment

  1. Victoria Howard says:

    To be burned is one of the worst ways to suffer. I think only crucifixion is worse. I will pray for this man that he no longer suffer, one way or another. But there is hope. I was once burned when my mother accidentally spilled boiling water on my legs. I made it, and have no sign of a burn on them at all. Let us all hope for the best!

  2. jon says:

    I pray for the people who are so disconnected from their souls, and in so much pain from it, that they actually see humor in the misery of others.

  3. deniene says:

    its amazing to see how a mans suffering sets off this kind of commenting. (referring to the negative and childish comments at that) this man went to pray church everyday to pray and those on here dare to make fun? or joke? there are other websites your morons. Go there. Not a site where his family might come and read supportive comments. Geez its amazing to see how stupid people really are.

  4. lindy says:

    Flannigan: What a beautiful Irish name for such a vile, inhumane person. Your shameless mocking of the suffering of a poor, devout elderly man comes right out of the pit of hell.

    Who do you think will fare better on Judgment Day, Mr. Badalamente or your sorry ass?

  5. Venus says:

    Foolligan, your comment is stupid, and it shows your lack of compassion.

  6. Bill says:

    Father Reid was a hero before this, you know, both as a Union organizer and as a United States Marine before he entered the seminary.

  7. God is Good says:

    This poor man will have to endure extreme suffering for the rest of his life. His last act was a beautiful one – lighting a candle in symbolism of his love for humanity and our Lord. Those of you making jokes make me sad. I will pray for you that you find Christ and he will lead you towards redemption.

  8. Fred says:

    He went down, in a burning ring of fire.

  9. Real Rick says:

    New York has a town named ‘Hicksville’? and you call us rednecks?

  10. Zeke says:

    Fr. Reid’s a good man. I figured he’d save lives by keeping kids away from gangs; but it seems God has found another way, as well. Prayers for Mr. Badalamente, and way to go, Henry.

  11. James Houlder says:

    Please don’t think me as cruel. The Priest did what he thought was right. Reality is the great old guy would have been better off dying at the scene. Burns over 60% of his body and he is in critical condition. The pain he is going through is not imaginable to any of us. Any fire fighter can tell you how serious burns like this are. This poor fellow is in the fight of his life and will not be able to ever recover due to the nature of the healing process with burn victims. You need the strength of youth and of body to regenerate your cells. This is a horrible tragedy and it is only going to cause him daily suffering worse then he should have to suffer. He should be sitting in the pew again talking to his friends and not in the hospital suffering.

    1. Maria says:

      What a strange comment…The only reason he even has a chance of “sitting in the pew again” is because of the priest’s actions. Human life has intrinsic value whether it includes suffering or not. The priest did not do “what he thought was right” he did what WAS right. What kind of person would just sit there and let a fellow human being burn to death? Remember, just because you wouldn’t be able to handle pain, does not mean this man would not either.

  12. Shinea says:

    Wow, you’re really funny. You must be a professional.

  13. John Svengali says:

    It is an unfortunate accident, and I pray for the old gentleman. It is nice to see a priest as a hero. I have always thought they are. Well done, Father, well done.

  14. Byron says:

    Burnt offering?

    1. John Svengali says:

      Maybe when you’re on fire, I’ll ask you that.

      1. Kevin says:

        I concur.

  15. JLo says:

    are you the guy from the hamburger train?

    1. Zeke says:

      A story about an old man engulfed by flames makes you think of Primus? Good grief.

      1. ha says:

        not Primus. Cheech and Chong. Check your cultural references before you go griefing all over people

  16. carmen says:

    will pray for this poor man and also for all the idiots out there who have no heart and hope that when they are before God, he will have mercy on them!

    1. Zeke says:

      Amen on both counts.

  17. lilmsnoitall says:

    There is a new treatment for burn victims, university of PA, don’t know how widely it is available.,

  18. WhoopAsss says:

    Doesn’t this just burn you up? He was all fired up weren’t hee hee hee! Burn baby burn! Well if it’s fire he wants..hell has plenty!

    1. Joe says:

      Where do you see that he wanted to be on fire?

  19. Moozo says:

    Maybe he follows the wrong religion…

    1. youfail says:

      maybe you’re a raging idiot

      1. pwnedMoozo says:

        lol. +1 to that. moozo got pwned.

  20. Dee in Pa says:

    Tasteless comment – have you no shame ?

  21. Dee in Pa says:

    Your comment is in very poor taste.

  22. Dreamtime says:

    You are truly an idiot, just looking for drama and nonscience, please stay on topic, do not stray again.

    1. Spectrabei says:

      FYI, nonscience is spelled “Nonsense”. Next time you comment you cn do it with an intelligence above the first grade level.
      all the best,

  23. Yo Mammy says:

    This is al Obama’s fault. WORST PRESIDENT EVER!!

  24. karen s says:

    well said lindy! i’ve worked in health care for over 30years, at one point spending time in the mass general burn unit at a time when 8 of the 10 patients were firemen who had been burned when a fire they responded to also experienced a series of explosions. there is nothing more painful that the experience of debridement and grafting, physical therapy. hey 3 stooges – do yourselves a favor besides prayer and make a donation to the shriners’ burn hospital for children, or burn center of your choice. my thoughts to the elderly gentleman and his family.

  25. rawheadrex says:

    Mr. Badalamente is on my beads for desperate cases. May God ease his pain.

  26. lindy says:

    To you smart alecks who are mocking a terrible tragedy. I’m a nurse and have worked in burn units. There is no suffering like the suffering endured by burn victims. This sweet man was performing a holy act and now is experiencing the most excruciating pain known to man: the burning of of his flesh: over 60% of his body!

    CaptainAwesome, Mike and Jole: What you have written you will have to answer for, face to face with God on Judgment Day. I hope dear Mr. Badalamente will be at God’s right side when God pronounces your punishment for your cruel, inhumane, arrogant comments.

    You three make me sick.

    1. spectrabei says:

      Why save him, too withstand that sort of hellish torturous PAIN. Better to let him die as he was than to save him to withstand the unsustainable pain (without Drugs) of your nerves having to deal with 60% of your FLESH burned off. He is going to wish he was dead, and I am going to wish it for him… All the best my friend, I will see you on the other side. The priest is a disappointment, a fool, I hope this family sues the church for their loss.

      1. lukuj says:

        They have no grounds for a lawsuit unless the man was forced to light the candles. He did so willingly. This was a terrible accident, not a derelicition of duty by anyone or a deliberate act. It is sad that the first thing that pops into the minds of some people is “lawsuit, lawsuit”. I’m sure the man himself wouldn’t want that to happen.

      2. Dreamtime says:

        Again you are an idiot, do you even have a heart?
        I hope he recovers quickly, I hope YOU find enlightenment.

      3. spectrabei says:

        If I walk into Walmart or Target, and they have a broken Vase on the shelf, and I grab it not knowing of the break in the vase and cut myself severely, I have a valid lawsuit. The point i ” Never give a customer a sharp knife or “fire” and allow them to play with it.

      4. JPin says:

        Don’t expect to see too many people on your “other side”. Moral midget.

      5. spectrabei says:

        I Don’t “expect to see” anybody.

    2. AK says:

      Well said Lindy.

    3. John Knoefler says:

      Debridement is insane. I had a burn all the way through the skin by molten steel. I kept is clean and moist and the burned flesh eventually dropped off. I used an antiseptic gel pack. It healed PERFECTLY.

    4. Jason says:

      You’re right. These folks making humorous comments deserve to burn in hell for all eternity. I’m sure that your just and fair deity will see to it.

    5. Jole says:

      Dearest Linda,

      Allah loves you! You can be saved! Turn from your false and wicked religion and embrace the One True God! Allahu Akbar! Plus, we don’t use candles much, so there’s that, too!

      But if you continue to live in willful ignorance, may I turn your attention to Matthew 7:1?

  27. Count Yob says:

    Poor old man. He must have had a slow perception of and response to what was happening for the fire to get this out of hand. Hope he can recover.

  28. linda says:

    In the Book of Revelation your written in the Book of Life or the Lake of Fire. Saint Jude, patron saint of lost causes, pray for us.

  29. ignatz says:

    prayers to the elderly gentleman who suffered from this tragic accident.

    good work by the quick thinking priests. priests are cool people – at least the ones that don’t hurt children.

    1. Like It Is says:


      After reading what you wrote, all I can say is: Sorry you lost your faith.

  30. Dallas says:

    pray…. pray to who? The a$$h01e that made this happen?

    1. Really....No Really says:

      Aw, did somebody get bitterly disappointed at sometime and now has to blame it on the ultimate power since it just can’t be his fault???? The only thing sadder than an actual non-believer is somebody who has fallen and feels the need to be so negative. You Sir, are quite simply a sore and pathetic loser. But remember, if repentence is genuine, so is forgiveness. But that’s his job, as far as I’m concerned you’re not worth it.

    2. rkaob says:

      God doesn’t let these things happen…We put ourselves in a chaotic world. God just walks with us and is there for us when bad things DO happen. Much like a parent who is “there” for their child when they may fall or get hurt. That parent can’t prevent their child from falling, but they can offer comfort when they do.

    3. Jimmy says:

      No, to the God who made sure the priests were there to save him.

  31. Ellen says:

    I pray for the man’s health, and people should realize that this could happen to anyone. We have to all be careful of lighting candles,

  32. Dallas says:

    is that how your god treats his people….?

    1. I Don't Suffer Fools says:

      Dallas, you’re a moron.

    2. Dorothy Kuns says:

      Dallas, you’re pretty stupid. If non-one was ever hurt or ever died, what kind of a world would we be living in? Just think about it for a few minutes and imagine the chaos.

      1. Dallas says:

        isnt that what you say will happen….

  33. George G says:

    Time of a law banning candles in public places of assembly.

    1. attila_the_huney says:

      Shut up George.

  34. Jole says:

    God hates old people playing with fire, apparently.

    1. deniene says:

      you are a jerk. this is a family friend. have some respect

  35. Lola says:

    Absolutely right, Joe! I pray for the gentleman’s recovery, but this shouldn’t have any bearing on having candles in a church. If he fell and broke a hip walking up the steps, would you outlaw stairs?

    1. Joe says:

      Of course!

  36. CaptainAwesome says:

    Talk about being on fire for the Lord!

    1. Dee in pa says:

      You sound like what is wrong with the world – no decency or sense of respect !

  37. jtorres says:

    I agree with Joe – it was an accident. It could have happened to anyone. And anywhere. If it happened in his kitchen, would you outlaw his stove?
    They used to have those electric red lights in my parish and I HATED it. I wanted to light a candle dozens of times but they were all lit because people would let their children run and play and it was a thrill for them to “light” the candles by pushing EVERY button. Those same people do not let their children near the real candles they have now. It’s a tradition it’s a custom and it’s part of my faith. You don’t have to like or agree with it yoiu just don’t go to my parish. Problem solved

  38. Edward Sonner says:

    Forget about the candles… what kind of clothes was he wearing that burst into flame??? Mine only smolder unless I put a torch to them…

    1. Dee in Pa says:

      You are disgusting.

    2. Joe says:

      I think the reporters would have picked up on it he was wearing clothes made out of unusual materials.

      1. Edward Sonner says:

        You have more faith in modern journalists than I do.

  39. OPERATOR147 says:


  40. mike says:

    still believing in God’s ? I got a used chariot for sale to !

  41. Debra says:

    Thank you for speaking up Joe, well said

  42. eddie too says:

    yeah!!! one incident in 10 million more or less proves the foolishness of having real candles in a church. moron.

  43. unzar jones says:

    Candles inside a church? Imagine that!

  44. Barbara says:

    My church has rows of candles that are electronic – you push a button and the little “flame” bulb lights up. No fire to worry about. Wouldn’t be a bad idea for all churches to follow suit for the safety of their parishioners, young and old alike.

    1. dstan says:

      Your church sucks. I bet you use powerpoint during sermons, too.

  45. Worried Human says:

    Dude, why would you have that many open flames inside of a structure?

    1. TXDiver says:

      Duh! It is a catholic Church. Candles are everywhere in large rows.

    2. joe says:

      Because it is a church, its been a tradition of the church for 2 thousand years, and its a way to honor the dead, and/or any other holy day (in the cathlic, well, whatever christian faith this church subscribes to) you wish to light a candle for… THAT is why… so, dont let one old man who expereinced an ACCIDENT while doing something completely virutous and in utterly good faith make you think the oh-so-benevolent government should “outlaw” such practives…. people like “Worried Human” up here is yet another closed-minded conformist who believes what he is told and has zero critical thinking capabilities…. let people BE, let FREEDOM REIGN over our society,,, and if an old man catches fire while lighting a candle, well, as you can see, there are people willing to IMMEDIATLEY HELP and, well, accidents happen………but yet, when MASSIVE TRILLION DOLLAR DISASTERS happen on a decades-long scale, we don;t consider that a problem at all… laws OPPRESS – More Government = Less Freedom…. Less Government = More Liberty….. this was an unfortunate accident, but before making ignorant comments, please understnad WHAT you are commenting on….. thank you.

      1. DelaineB says:

        well put, Joe, way to go.

    3. Terry Kainbech says:

      You must be a complete fool. Are you one of the new liberal socialists of the democratic koolaide party. To you guys abortion and windmills equal good. Going to church, marriage and driving cars equal bad. You actually hve not ever been to church have you. You guys want to rule the world and I cannot stand it any longer. I also do not like any of the current members of Congress so I am not a political follower. I vote with my mind not my koolaide of choice.

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