Canadian firefighter's suicide ruled an LODD

The ruling qualifies Ernie Dombrowski’s widow to receive $3,000 a month in survivor’s benefits

By FireRescue1 Staff

VANCOUVER, British Columbia  — Two years after a fire captain died by suicide, officials have classified his death as a line of duty death. 

Colleagues of Surrey firefighter Ernie Dombrowski, 44, said they noticed a change in his demeanor after he responded to a hit-and-run crash in 2013. He died by suicide in 2015. 

“That was one of the stresses that took him to a dark place,” Surrey Fire Capt. Dan Kehler said. “A psychological injury is no different than a physical injury ... It doesn’t matter who you are, anyone can suffer this kind of trauma.”

A workers’ compensation agency, WorkSafe B.C., board’s ruling qualifies Dombrowski’s widow, Gena, to receive more than $3,000 a month in survivor’s benefits, reported the National Post. The board said Dombrowski’s death was caused by a psychological injury he suffered from his job.

Prior to his death, Dombrowski refused to start a file with the agency, and doctors never diagnosed him with PTSD. The agency resolved the claim nine months after it was filed, which included reports from a psychologist who was treating Dombrowski and fellow firefighters stating depression and PTSD affected Dombrowski.

“Ernie was a wonderful human being. He was strong mentally and physically,” Capt. Kehler said.  “[But] he was a guy who didn’t want to be labeled with a mental disorder because he felt there was a stigma.”

Gena Dombrowski said the ruling is a financial relief, and hopes that other responders and their families with similar cases can also be compensated.  

“The award is good for the firefighters who are not being taken seriously and saying they need to get better help,” Dombrowski said. “The authorities need to realize this is a real thing. I believe this will make it possible for other first responders to make claims related to mental injuries.”

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