Off-Duty Massachusetts Firefighters Save Man Suffering Medical Emergency During Flight

by Matthew Memrick

Thirty minutes into a flight and several off-duty Massachusetts firefighters saved a man in medical distress last week.

According to WHDH, seven firefighters en route to a memorial in Colorado Springs witnessed a man having seizure-like symptoms.

Chief Christopher Coleman, Capt. George McKinnon, Capt. Josh Langille and Lt. Scott Langille came from the North Attleboro Fire Department. Foxborough Firefighter Cory Shepardson was also on the flight with retired firefighters Jeff Badger and Rich McDonagh. 

People magazine reported that the men were en route to Denver to visit the Fallen Firefighter Memorial in Colorado Springs.

Coleman said the men saw a passenger was “extremely gray and not responding.”

The group laid the man down in the plane’s walking aisle. Attempts to find a pulse were in vain, according to WHDH.

Training Kicked In For Firefighters

According to WBZ-TV, firefighters tried to resuscitate the man as they realized they would have to use their training. 

Coleman said the men didn’t even have to look at each other. They knew what had to get done in the situation.

McKinnon started with CPR while Langille used the plane’s automated external defibrillator (AED). Coleman told a group of reporters he helped by starting an IV.

Other passengers became hip to the group’s efforts, with one shooting a photograph of the rescue efforts. WBZ-TV got a copy of the photo.

In the team effort, the firefighters managed to bring the man back to life.

Coleman said the man remained conscious for the rest of the flight after they got him stabilized.

They continued to monitor him throughout the flight. After landing at Chicago’s Midway International Airport, the emergency officials took the man to a nearby hospital. 

When TV reports revealed the incident, Coleman was able to relay that the man was doing OK.

Back to Boston

Upon returning, the seven men were honored by North Attleboro and Foxborough officials. WHDH said the firefighters got letters of commendation for their heroism.

Coleman praised his fellow rescuers, saying the incident was a great example of how first responders are always willing and prepared in all sorts of situations.

“A firefighter is never off duty, and this proves it,” he told reporters. 

Coleman said he trains and does rescues all over the place but added he “never thought (he’d) be doing it in an airplane up above.”

Mid-air Medical Emergencies Common

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are roughly 144 medical emergencies among 87,000 flights daily. To break it down further, one in 604 flights will have a medical emergency.

The most common one is a loss of consciousness due to blood pressure. The following three emergencies involve gastrointestinal, respiratory, and cardiovascular issues. 

According to American Family Physician Journal, the cabin crew manages up to 70 percent of inflight emergencies without additional assistance. 

So, in this case, having seven firefighters in a plane is almost the next best thing to being outside a hospital and suffering a medical emergency.