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46-Year-Old Sergeant Suffers Fatal Cardiac Event at Station – Michigan

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

F2021-02 Date Released: June 1, 2021

Executive Summary

On August 2, 2020, a 46-year-old male career Sergeant (SGT) suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while taking a meal break during his police shift as part of his public safety job. Another officer found him pulseless and non-responsive on the kitchen floor at approximately 2300 hours, called dispatch, and initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Other officers assisted with resuscitation efforts until paramedics arrived and provided advanced cardiac life support. The ambulance arrived at the emergency department (ED) at 2332 hours. At 2348 resuscitation efforts were deemed unsuccessful and the SGT was pronounced dead.

The Medical Examiner’s report listed hypertensive and arteriosclerotic heart disease as the underlying causes of death. Pulmonary hypertension and obesity were listed as contributing factors. The autopsy report noted an enlarged heart (weight of 658 grams), ventricular wall hypertrophy, and significant coronary artery atherosclerosis (50%–70%) in the three main coronary arteries. There was no evidence of acute thrombus or of myocardial scarring. The SGT had cardiac risk factors including a medical history of obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, hypertension, and elevated lipid levels along with being a prior smoker. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) investigators concluded that the SGT suffered a sudden cardiac arrest due to arrhythmias resulting from his underlying cardiac disease.

The SGT’s public safety job required him to work split shifts as both a firefighter and a police officer. On the day he died, he was on a 24-hour shift which required him to work the first 8 hours as a firefighter and the second 8 hours as a police officer. The SGT suffered his cardiac arrest 7 hours after completing the portion of his shift worked as a firefighter. Since his death occurred within 24 hours of his last actions as a firefighter, it is considered to be a firefighter line of duty death.

Key Recommendations

NIOSH investigators offer the following recommendations to prevent similar fatal events, and to address general health and safety issues among firefighters at this and other fire departments across the country.

Key Recommendation 1: Ensure that all firefighters receive an annual medical evaluation consistent with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments.

Key Recommendation 2: Ensure firefighters are cleared for duty by a physician knowledgeable about the physical demands of firefighting, the personal protective equipment used by firefighters, and the various components of NFPA 1582.

Key Recommendation 3: Phase in a mandatory comprehensive wellness and fitness program for firefighters.

Read the full report