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Battalion Chief Dies From Aortic Dissection After Physical Fitness Training – Missouri


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

F2015-03 Date Released: September 21, 2015

Executive Summary

On January 1, 2015, a 41-year-old male career battalion chief (“BC”) worked a 24-hour shift with no emergency calls. On January 2, the off-duty BC performed physical fitness training at a gym. Later that evening, he experienced chest pain and was evaluated in the local emergency department (ED) where musculoskeletal chest wall pain was diagnosed and he was released. He worked two subsequent 24-hour shifts on January 3 and 5, and assisted with search dog training for 2 hours on January 7, 2015. The evening of January 7, the BC’s wife was awakened at about 2300 hours by a loud snoring type of sound. She could not awaken the BC and called 911; an ambulance with paramedics responded. Despite advanced life support treatment at the scene, in the ambulance, and inside the hospital’s ED, the BC was pronounced dead at 0051 hours on January 8, 2015.

The death certificate and autopsy report, both completed by the Deputy Medical Examiner, listed “ruptured aortic dissection” as the cause of death. It is unlikely the exertion during the physical fitness training performed on January 2, 2015 initiated the BC’s aortic dissection.

Key Recommendations

  • Provide annual medical evaluations to all fire fighters in accordance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments.
  • Discontinue preplacement screening lumbar spine x-rays unless clinically indicated.


Read the full report