Firefighter Suffers Fatal Cardiac Event While Assisting with a Medical Call – Illinois

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

F2016-11 Date Released: August 1, 2016

Executive Summary

In December 2015, a 49-year-old male firefighter (FF) responded to a medical call. He drove an engine assigned to assist an ambulance. While doing chest compressions on a cardiac arrest victim, the FF complained of being tired. His lieutenant (LT) had him stop and sit down. The FF then complained of chest pain. The LT summoned another ambulance. On entering the ambulance, the FF became unresponsive. The ambulance crew began cardiopulmonary resuscitation and advanced life support. They transported the FF to the hospital emergency department. There, advanced life support care continued until the FF was pronounced dead.

The death certificate listed coronary artery thrombosis as the immediate cause of death and coronary atherosclerosis as the underlying cause of death. The autopsy revealed a thrombus that completely occluded the left anterior descending coronary artery. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health investigators conclude that the emergency response and physical exertion of doing chest compressions triggered a heart attack.

Key Recommendations

  • Phase in a mandatory comprehensive wellness and fitness program for firefighters.

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Page last reviewed: September 29, 2021