Wis. firefighter-paramedic’s cause of death report sparks reviews

After it was revealed that Rick Garner, 29, died of cardiac arrest, Chief Steven Davis said the department will review how responder recruit health is assessed


MADISON, Wis. — A young firefighter-paramedic’s cardiac arrest death is prompting the fire department to review their recruitment health assessments.

WKOW reported that Madison Fire Department firefighter-paramedic Rick Garner, 29, died of cardiac arrest April 1, approximately six hours after finishing a 48-hour shift, according to a NIOSH report.

“Acute cardiac arrest,” Chief Steven Davis said, “with an underlying factor of hypertensive cardiovascular disease.”

Madison Fire Department firefighter-paramedic Rick Garner, 29, died of cardiac arrest April 1, approximately six hours after finishing a 48-hour shift. (Photo/MFD)
Madison Fire Department firefighter-paramedic Rick Garner, 29, died of cardiac arrest April 1, approximately six hours after finishing a 48-hour shift. (Photo/MFD)

Firefighter Dave Guthrie, who often worked with Garner on medical calls, described Garner as a “young, strong, healthy guy.”

“There are just a lot of unknowns as to what went on with Rick,” Davis said.

Davis said the department is requesting a review of the tools used to measure the health of responder recruits, and the semi-annual assessments of veteran responders.

Guthrie said 48-hour shifts can take a toll on responders.

“I mean it all depends on the calls,” he said.  “Sometimes you can do 24 hours without sleeping at all, which is a huge toll on the body.”

According to Davis, Garner responded to 13 calls on his 48-hour shift, including high-stress incidents such as a baby delivery and a call involving a possible weapon on the scene.

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