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Former firefighter springs into action during heart-stopping moment at Hartford St. Patrick’s Day parade

Former firefighter springs into action during heart-stopping moment at Hartford St. Patrick’s Day parade
Glastonbury's St. Patrick's Pipe Band during last week's Greater Hartford St. Patrick's Day Parade. A trooper was marching with the pipe band near the front of the parade Saturday when he went into cardiac arrest and suddenly collapsed in the street outside the Black Eyed Sally’s restaurant near the end of the route. (Sean Fowler/Special to the Courant)

The quick actions of a retired deputy fire chief saved the life of a state auxiliary police trooper after a heart-stopping moment during the crescendo of Hartford’s St. Patrick’s Day parade Saturday.

The trooper was marching with Glastonbury’s St. Patrick’s Pipe Band near the front of the parade when he went into cardiac arrest and suddenly collapsed in the street outside the Black Eyed Sally’s restaurant near the end of the route.

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That’s when Tom Dalton, a longtime Hartford firefighter and deputy chief who retired in late 2017, sprang into action.

He was marching directly behind his lifelong friend and immediately jumped to begin CPR and shout orders to the dozens of trained first responders who were either marching in the parade or serving in uniform that day.

"Every second counts," Dalton said. "You go back to your highest level of training when you’re in a very stressful situation and you keep it simple."

Dalton and a slew of other firefighters and police officers were able to get the trooper critical medical attention, including CPR and two shocks with a defibrillator, and to St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in a matter of minutes.

The trooper has not been identified publicly and remains in the hospital this week ahead of another procedure, Hartford fire officials and his family said. His family declined to comment further but thanked Dalton and the other first responders for their actions.

Dalton and fire officials looked back on the frightening few minutes last weekend grateful that the trooper’s medical emergency happened when it did — as strange as it was in the middle of a celebratory parade — because so many trained personnel were present.

Hartford firefighters are cross-trained in basic life support techniques, especially CPR, said Deputy Chief Alvaro Cucuta.

"Had that happened four hours earlier or later on that evening, it could have been an entirely different outcome," he said. "Time is of the essence and the fact that he collapsed and CPR was initiated right away, that makes all the difference."

The trooper was treated so quickly that paramedics were able to revive him in the ambulance and he was alert in the hospital, Cucuta and Dalton said.

"I must have looked like a crazy man because I’m running around with a kilt, barking out orders," Dalton said. "If there were mothers in the crowd, they were covering their kids’ eyes and ears."

But the parade had to go on, despite the scene, so the band members picked up their instruments and the firefighters hopped back in their engine to finish the final leg of the route to the the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch.

“When we finished and got our man packaged up and to the hospital we picked up our instruments, got back in formation and finished that parade," Dalton said. "What a cacophonous applause. It was the sweetest sound I ever heard until I heard his voice again at the hospital.”

Zach Murdock can be reached at zmurdock@courant.com.

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