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NJ EMT, former fire chief dies from COVID-19 complications

New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority EMT and past Wallington Fire Chief David Pinto, 70, is the 15th EMS provider in the state to die from the virus and the third from his squad


Alex Napoliello
NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

BERGEN COUNTY, N.J. — David Pinto, an EMT and former chief of the Wallington Fire Department, died Sunday from complications related to the coronavirus. He was 70.

Pinto, of Wallington, was an EMT with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which oversees the Meadowlands complex. He also served as the fire chief in his hometown in 2001 and was once a member of the Board of Education, including a stint as board president.

“He wore a lot of hats in his life,” said Fran Guthrie, his manager at the NJSEA. “He was very involved. He was a civic leader. A lot of people knew and loved David.”

Pinto was the third EMT from the NJSEA to die from COVID-19, following the losses of John Ferrarella and Dr. Frank Molinari. Across the state, at least 15 EMTs have died from the disease, according to the NJ EMS Task Force and multiple first-aid squads.

Pinto “fought a great fight and will be greatly missed,” the Wallington Fire Department said in a statement.

“Thank you for all the years of dedicated service,” the statement continued. “Rest in peace.”

The president of the volunteer department, Mark Tomko, told NJ Advance Media that “you couldn’t find a finer person” than Pinto.

“I don’t think anybody that ever met him could say a bad word about him,” Tomko said. “When you have the word ‘gentleman’ in the dictionary, his face should be right there.”

Tomko described Pinto as someone who never complained and loved a good joke. Pinto, Tomko said, was also the main cook in the firehouse.

“He was one of those good firehouse chefs,” Tomko said.

Pinto was drawn to the fire department after seeing some of his firefighter neighbors, including Tomko, on his street hastily leave their Reservoir Avenue homes to respond to fire calls.

“One day he said, ‘I’m going to get the guts to join,’” Tomko said. “He ended up joining and brought in a lot of good members into the department.”

Pinto was originally from Jersey City and started his career as a letter carrier there. He began his career with the NJSEA EMS squad in 1994 — a busy year in which he worked World Cup soccer matches as well as concerts featuring Elton John, Billy Joel, the Rolling Stones and The Grateful Dead.

“At the end of his first summer with NJSEA he was a very experienced EMT in the field of entertainment and sports EMS,” Guthrie said in a statement.

Pinto would wind up working as an EMT for 15 Bruce Springsteen concerts and hundreds of Nets and Devils games when both pro teams played at what is now the Meadowlands Arena (formerly the Brendan Byrne Arena, Continental Airlines Arena and the Izod Center). Pinto also worked the morning workouts and races at the Meadowlands Racetrack, which features harness horse racing.

“David was known for his kind and generous heart,” Guthrie said. “He gave 100% to every job he went on. He loved helping people and making their day a little brighter. He was loved by his colleagues and by the employees he took care of every day on the Complex.”

Pinto leaves behind his high school sweetheart and wife, Barbara; his daughter, Nicole; and his son, David Jr. He also had one grandson.

“David’s children Nicole and David Jr. were his pride and joy,” Guthrie said. “He loved speaking about them and what they were up to in their lives. He loved his daughter-in-law Yvette and his grand-baby Davey. He would glow with joy when speaking about Davey.”

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., has co-sponsored bipartisan legislation that would ensure families of first responders who die from COVID-19 complications won’t face unnecessary hurdles to benefits.

“We have an obligation as lawmakers to make sure investments are being made so that our brave EMTs and paramedics, who are working around the clock literally and are putting their bodies at risk, are protected and supported,” Booker said earlier this month during a conference call with New Jersey emergency medical services responders.

Guthrie said Pinto fought a “long and valiant battle” against COVID-19.

“Our David was taken too soon by an enemy we had no experience fighting but David fought none the less,” she said. “David’s memory will live on in all of the many lives he touched and lessons he taught each of us. We will speak of him daily and celebrate his life always.

“RIP Chief we will take it from here.”

NJ Advance Media reporter Keith Sargeant contributed to this report.


©2020 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.