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Fire Apparatus Driver Operator Suffers Fatal Cardiac Event During Fire Department Training – Maryland


FF ShieldDeath in the Line of Duty…A summary of a NIOSH fire fighter fatality investigation

F2014-20 Date Released: April 4, 2015

Executive Summary

On May 30, 2014, a 58-year-old Fire Apparatus Driver Operator (FADO) participated in his fire department’s (FD’s) annual physical ability test, known as their “physical readiness assessment.” The physical readiness assessment (PRA) involved completion of an untimed event of eight job tasks. Following this assessment, the FADO attempted a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) maze drill. The FADO completed the eight job tasks without difficulty, but had sudden onset of severe shortness of breath during the SCBA maze drill. While in the maze, the FADO collapsed. The FADO was removed from the maze training prop and on-scene emergency medical service (EMS) began advanced cardiac life support and transported the FADO to the emergency department (ED). Despite resuscitation efforts on-scene, during transport, and in the ED, the FADO died. The death certificate and autopsy report, both completed by the Medical Examiner’s office, listed the cause of death as “atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.” The autopsy reported moderate to severe focal coronary artery atherosclerosis, an enlarged heart (cardiomegaly), and left ventricular hypertrophy. Based on the autopsy findings and the clinical scenario, NIOSH investigators conclude that the physical exertion associated with the physical readiness assessment and SCBA maze training triggered the FADO’s sudden cardiac death.

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The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. In 1998, Congress appropriated funds to NIOSH to conduct a fire fighter initiative that resulted in the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program which examines line-of-duty-deaths or on duty deaths of fire fighters to assist fire departments, fire fighters, the fire service and others to prevent similar fire fighter deaths in the future. The agency does not enforce compliance with State or Federal occupational safety and health standards and does not determine fault or assign blame. Participation of fire departments and individuals in NIOSH investigations is voluntary. Under its program, NIOSH investigators interview persons with knowledge of the incident who agree to be interviewed and review available records to develop a description of the conditions and circumstances leading to the death(s). Interviewees are not asked to sign sworn statements and interviews are not recorded. The agency’s reports do not name the victim, the fire department or those interviewed. The NIOSH report’s summary of the conditions and circumstances surrounding the fatality is intended to provide context to the agency’s recommendations and is not intended to be definitive for purposes of determining any claim or benefit.

For further information, visit the program Web site at or call toll free 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).