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Captain Suffers Sudden Cardiac Death After Performing Physical Fitness Training – Mississippi

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

F2016-13 Date Released:  November 10, 2016

Executive Summary

On December 21, 2015, a 66-year-old male career captain (the Captain) performed fitness training by walking on a treadmill. After exercising for about 20 minutes, he ate dinner and went to take a shower. About 75 minutes later, a crew member found the Captain unresponsive in the shower room. Crewmembers checked for vital signs as Dispatch was notified. Due to signs of death, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was not begun. Dispatch was notified. The ambulance arrived and paramedics applied a cardiac monitor. Asystole (no heart beat) was revealed. The Coroner was notified and responded. The Captain was pronounced dead at 2200 hours.

The death certificate was completed by the County Deputy Medical Examiner Investigator. A “visual” autopsy was completed by the Deputy State Medical Examiner. They listed “hypertensive cardiovascular disease” as the cause of death. The Captain had underlying coronary heart disease (CHD). NIOSH investigators concluded the exertion required to walk on the treadmill may have been sufficient to trigger a cardiac arrhythmia.

Key Recommendations

  • Provide preplacement and annual medical evaluations to all fire fighters consistent with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments, to identify fire fighters at increased risk CHD
  • Ensure that fire fighters are cleared for return to duty by a physician knowledgeable about the physical demands of fire fighting, the personal protective equipment used by fire fighters, and the components of NFPA 1582

The following recommendations would not have prevented the Captain’s death, but NIOSH investigators include them to address general safety and health issues:

  • Provide fire fighters with medical clearance to wear a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) as part of the fire department’s medical evaluation program
  • Perform an annual physical ability evaluation
  • Perform an autopsy on all on-duty fire fighter fatalities


Read the full report