Medical Emergency Likely Led to Vt. FF's Death

Officials believe the assistant chief collapsed with a medical problem before another firefighter accidentally backed the fire truck up, running over him.


MARLBORO, Vt. -- There's a possibility that a veteran Vermont firefighter suffered a medical emergency and collapsed before he was run over by a fire truck here earlier this week.

Assistant Chief John P. "Jack" Horton, 68, was the incident commander on the scene of a car crash on Thursday. When an ambulance arrived, the engine needed to be moved.

Vermont State Police said the driver initially saw Horton in his rear view mirror and backed up, not seeing him again until he got out. He then noticed him lying on the ground.

"Jack had the best chance anyone could have had with emergency responders already being on the scene," Marlboro Chief David Elliott said Saturday.

Following an autopsy and crash reconstruction by the VSP, it has been determined that "for Jack to end up in the position he did, he had to have collapsed before he sustained traumatic injury," the chief said.

The cause of death has been listed as coronary artery disease and blunt force trauma.

Elliott said it's been a trying few days for his department.

"Jack was an instructor, an officer and a leader. With Jack in command, safety was always first on the list. Sometimes, even when things are done right, bad things happen."

Horton had been an active firefighter for 47 years, including 30 with Marlboro.

"We will be mourning our loss for a long time. We greatly appreciate the support we have received from our townspeople and emergency response community...We'll miss Jack."