NARRAGANSETT – While the Blessing of the Fleet Road Race is typically filled with joy and triumph, this year’s event took a wrong turn when one participant required life-saving efforts from the Narragansett Fire Department (NFD) and other local public safety agencies. On Monday, the town council recognized the swift action and work from members of the department and the Narragansett Surf Rescue Team. 

“Their life-saving efforts basically brought a young man back to life after collapsing from a sudden cardiac event during the Blessing of the Fleet Road Race,” said town manager Jim Tierney. “As a result of their swift and heroic efforts, that man and his family are with us this evening. We’re so happy that he could be with us and so happy that his family still has him.”

On July 23, during this year’s 10-mile road race, a man from Massachusetts in his early thirties collapsed from cardiac arrest near mile marker 3 on Ocean Road at Walcott Avenue. 

“I remember telling the firefighters nothing’s ever happened in that zone,” said NFD Chief Scott Partington Monday. “Well, something did happen there.” 

The victim had also sustained noticeable contusions and abrasions to his head and knee upon collapsing to the ground. NFD members, who were placed along checkpoints on the race route, heard a call for help. 

“We arrived to find a male runner down on the ground unresponsive,” said NFD firefighter Chris Dubowski.

Initiating CPR, Dubowski and his partner Nick Linacre, a probationary officer with the Portsmouth Fire Department and member of the Rhode Island Disaster Medical Assistance Team, were able to identify a life-threatening heart rhythm, begin defibrillation and ultimately restore the victim’s pulse on the spot.   

”He required a cardiac defibrillation and CPR to restore his pulse and we were able to maintain his pulse until our arrival at South County Health’s emergency department, where we then turned over his care to their amazing team of doctors and nurses,” said Dubowski. 

“This is something that we’ve planned for, prepared for, but we have yet to experience it at any time that I know of during this race,” said Partington. “At least, for me, it was the first time I experienced it in the 30 years I’ve been here.” 

The victim and his family were present Monday night to thank NFD, the Narragansett Surf Rescue Team and other individuals who assisted in the efforts during the race. Prior to the event, which drew 2,200 participants this year, the fire department, the rescue team, town staff, the police department and other various state and local agencies collaborate to provide public safety. 

“We are usually the first link in a long chain of people involved in order for someone to survive an event like this,” said Dubowski. “It really is special to see that chain all come together, because that is not always the case, despite best efforts.” 

For their efforts, firefighters and other public safety staff were recognized by the town council Monday with commendations. Dubowski was awarded the commendation bar “for a credible act in the line of duty which is commendable in nature, and displays admirable initiative and accomplishment.” 

NFD Lieutenant Charles Lacoste and firefighter Aubrie Blanchette, the team that arrived on the scene shortly after Dubowski and Linacre, received the unit commendation, a recognition awarded to a group of members who “have performed service to the department in a highly commendable manner.” 

NFD Lt. Chris Demers and Probationary FF. Thomas Boyer, who also responded to the scene shortly after the victim collapsed, also received the unit commendation, along with NFD firefighter Dominic Polseno. 

Civilians and race participants who assisted in the rescue efforts were also recognized. Diane McKeeff, a registered nurse practitioner and runner in the race, was one of the first bystanders to come upon the patient, when she stopped and rendered initial aid before medical personnel arrived. NFD Lieutenant Kevin McEnery, also a race participant, came upon the victim and stopped to provide assistance as NFD teams arrived. For McKeeff and McEnry’s efforts, they were both awarded the EMS Chain of Survival certificate, along with members of the Narragansett Surf Rescue Team Brian Guadagno and Dave Pezzullo, who both assisted with rendering aid to the victim. 

“We’re so happy things worked out,” Partington concluded. “Just spread the word. If you want to run a race, make sure to run it in Narragansett.” 

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