Report: Heart Attack Claims Florida Lieutenant after Training

Symptoms initially attributed to workout

Bill Carey
9 October 2021

CINCINNATI, Ohio – The NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program released the report on the death of a 67-year-old lieutenant after rapid intervention team (RIT) training in Florida in 2019.

The incident occurred on 7 May 2019 in Sun Prairie and killed Plantation Fire Department Lieutenant Barry Lee Boulton, Sr.

Lieutenant Boulton’s death is listed by the United States Fire Administration with a Nature of Death being Heart Attack due to Stress/Overexertion.

The RIT training involved a simulated collapse and firefighter (dummy) rescue. Firefighters entered through a simulated window, followed a hoseline, crawled through six feet of an entanglement prop, crawled through three feet of a narrow tunnel, followed the hoseline for another 15 feet, located the dummy and reversed through the tunnel and entanglement with the dummy [1].

It was estimated that it took six to 10 minutes to complete the evolution.

After the drill the lieutenant asked what would cause his pectoral muscles to hurt. He was seen with “his thumbs in underarm area and was rubbing his chest. [2]” Once firefighter asked if it was cardiac related and the lieutenant strongly denied it and suggested it was related to his heavy, upper body workout. Other firefighters suggested the lieutenant go into the fire station and be evaluated by paramedics, but he refused.

One of the last firefighters to leave saw the lieutenant in distress and convinced him to be evaluated. Once inside, and as paramedics began to obtain vitals, the lieutenant because unresponsive, pulseless, and apneic.

The medical examiner listed the cause of death as hypertensive atherosclerotic
cardiovascular disease.

Significant in this report are the varied signs and symptoms of heart attack. It is also one of the key recommendations listed, “Ensure that all firefighters are aware of the warning signs of a cardiovascular event and the atypical ways it can present.”

The NIOSH report lists other reports where symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest were not considered as classic symptoms [3]. Some of these are:

  • weakness and shortness of breath blamed on cold
  • coughing and sweating explained as getting over a cold
  • indigestion with excessive burping and heartburn
  • shoulder pain like a pulled muscle
  • torqued back
  • burning sensation in throat


  1. 67-Year-Old Volunteer Lieutenant Suffers Sudden Cardiac Death – Florida, NIOSH,
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.

Photograph courtesy of Unsplash.

Published by Data Not Drama

Data Not Drama is writings that provide a point of critical thought about firefighter fatality data and education, line of duty deaths, and risk. The main focus is to encourage less risk aversion and better knowledge on the subject of firefighter fatalities in firefighters, fire departments, and fire service organizations.

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