AFD veteran loses battle with COVID-19

Dave Swart was with department for 30 years

AMSTERDAM — Montgomery County is mourning the death of Dave Swart, a 30-year veteran of the Amsterdam Fire Department who died Friday due to complications of the COVID-19 coronavirus, according a statement issued by the county.

Montgomery County made a statement on their Facebook page around 4 p.m. on Friday stating, “Our hearts go out to his family, friends and the Amsterdam Fire Department and the many lives he touched throughout the community. Such a kind person will be missed by all. This pandemic has caused tragedy worldwide, and now it will have forever impacted us in Montgomery County. We offer our strength and support to the Swart family and all families being affected by COVID-19.”

Thursday night, prior to Swart’s death, The Leader-Herald interviewed his son, Dave Swart, Jr., who spoke on the seriousness of the virus.

“This virus is more serious than anyone can really comprehend. It is here. It’s right in front of your nose, it is everywhere you go, and people need to know that and act accordingly,” Swart said. “No one is immune and everyone is a vehicle that can deliver this deadly virus to their homes, to their friends, to their loved ones and to everyone else in their community.”

Dave Swart Jr. said his father first showed symptoms on March 13 including: fever, body aches, diarrhea, impaired taste and tightness in the chest. He said his oldest sister and mother had the flu and thought his father had caught it.

However, on March 23, his temperature spiked to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit and he was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital, where he had been admitted for pneumonia and was tested for the virus.

Swart said the next day, March 24, his dad was moved to ICU because of concerns over his blood oxygen level, and later that morning his test results for COVID-19 came back positive. Swart said by 8 a.m. on March 25, his dad was placed under sedation and put on a ventilator.

“When dad was put on a ventilator, we knew this was extremely serious. He [had] been under sedation and on a ventilator since [March 25],” Swart said. “We have been advised to expect him to stay on the ventilator for no less than 16 days and that we would be in this for the long haul.”

While in the hospital, Swart said his dad was not allowed to have any visitors which he said was “like a terrible nightmare,” and that his dad “just vanished into thin air” and they only got phone calls about how sick he was.

He said to keep the whole family updated, his mom, Pam Swart, would do group Facetime.

Dave Swart Jr. thanked the healthcare workers who were able to be in the hospital room with his dad, taking care of him.

“And we cherish the ground they walk on for being our heroes that they are, and for caring for my dad,” Dave Swart Jr. said.

During Dave Swart’s time in the hospital, the Amsterdam and Montgomery County community members were huge supporters of the Swart family, sending prayers, cards, flowers and food.

His son said the community, including local officials, were “compassionate” for him and his family, sending love and prayers for his dad.

He said representatives including County Executive Matt Ossenfort, County Public Health Director Sara Boerenko, Congressman Paul Tonko, Mayor Michael Cinquanti and District 9 Legislator Robert Purtell were all helpful to and supportive to the Swart family.

“There are no words in any language that could possibly describe how compassionate, supportive and inspiring our community has been,” Swart said.

He said the St. Mary’s staff had cut out a heart and stuck it in the window of his father’s room in the hospital so the family could know what room he was in. On Wednesday, members of the Amsterdam Fire Department gathered outside of St. Mary’s, along with the Swart family to help get spirits up.

Swart said three trucks from the fire department turned on their lights and sirens to show support for his father.

Dave Swart was a retired lieutenant and a 30-year veteran of the Amsterdam Fire Department, and the former president of the Amsterdam Professional Firefighters AFF Local 2825. He was also a retired painter. Dave Swart Jr. said his dad painted Amsterdam “inside and out.”

Dave Swart is also known as “Dave from Dave’s Dawgs” and his celebrated “Mexican Hots.” Dave’s Dawgs is a food truck primarily located on Church Street in the city that works many local community events. When the food truck was closed, Swart could be found on the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course.

Swart said his family almost immediately decided share that his dad had tested positive with the virus to let people in the community know what was going on.

“People need to know what this virus does to those that contract it and to those that love them. It does not discriminate,” Swart said. “What is absurdly scary is, as heart wrenching and earth-shattering as this is, this pain can double, triple, or worse if additional members of this family contract the virus. We can not let that happen nor can any other family in this community.”

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office stated their hearts go out to the family, friends and fellow first responders, especially the Amsterdam Fire Department, of Dave Swart.

“Sadly and unfortunately Dave’s passing is a direct result of complications with COVID-19, please follow best practices and respect social distancing in an attempt to stop the spread of this awful sickness,” the department wrote. “Respect life everyday and keep all struggling at this time in your wishes, thank you.”

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara wrote that he was greatly saddened by news of Swart’s death.

“He was an amazing person and a friend of Amsterdam. Anyone who knew Dave was surely touched by his kindness. His presence in our community will surely be missed,” Santabarbara wrote. “My profoundest condolences to my good friend Pam Swart and all of Dave’s family and friends. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Rest in peace Dave, you will be missed.

Cinquanti wrote on Facebook that on behalf of the city, he extends his condolences to Swart’s family and AFD brothers.

“The history of our City is really a compilation of the individual life stories of the people who live here. Those lives define what our City was and what it is. One of Amsterdam’s favorite stories came to a close today with the tragic death of Dave Swart. He was born here, raised here and remained here. He risked his life to keep us safe. He made us hot dogs and Mexican hots from his kitchen on wheels. He loved his family and his fire-fighting brothers fiercely and his greatest gift to everyone else was his friendship, which he shared with so many,” Cinquanti wrote.


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