Illinois Firefighter Dies of Heart Attack while Responding

VERGENNES, Ill.-- A southern Illinois fire fighter suffered a fatal heart attack early Friday morning on his way to save a life.

Vergennes fire fighter and first responder 37-year-old Mike Fox was driving to a medical call when he started having difficulty breathing. He pulled off the road and slumped over the steering wheel. A fellow first responder administered C.P.R. but was unable to save him. Fox was pronounced dead at St. Joseph's hospital in Murphysboro.

"He saved lives...overall he gave 100 percent of himself every day for the fire department," said Fox's cousin and fellow Vergennes fire fighter Wayne Tuthill.

Fox became a volunteer fire fighter 17 years ago. He learned to be a first responder, one of only five on the department trained to handle medical calls in the small town of Vergennes.

"He was just all around, a town hero...they called 9-11, he was there," said Tuthill.

Within a moment's notice--day or night--his fellow fire fighters knew mike would always be ready to go.

"He beat me here every time. The tone drops, he was waiting in the ambulance when I got here for a first responder call, I used to tease him and say ‘Mike I think you sleep in your clothes'," said Vergennes Fire Chief Randy Mathis.

Early Friday morning, when a medical call came in, as usual, mike didn't hesitate to respond.

"He made his last call, going to help a person I believe the call was a heart attack, and they never made it to the call," said Mathis.

Now the remaining 14 members of the Vergennes Fire Department wonder what life will be like without the guy who was always there to help.

"Mike was always the first one here, so he was always in the driver's seat, in that ambulance to run on a first responder call, it's going to be tough to jump in that driver's seat and take off without him. It's definitely going to be different," Mathis said.

Visitation was Sunday at Pettett Funeral Home in Murphysboro. Funeral services are set for 11 a.m. Monday. Area fire departments are invited to take part in a fire fighters procession down Route 13 to Murdale Gardens Cemetery following Monday's service.

Republished with permission of KFVS-TV.

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