New Jersey Firefighter Dies After Suffering Stroke at Firefighter Funeral

The U.S. Fire Administration has announced the on duty death of Metuchen, New Jersey Safety Officer James Michael Ratcliffe.

Ratcliffe, 62, suffered a hemorrhagic stroke -- a cerebral bleed -- April 11, 2005 while operating an engine at the funeral procession for a former fire department chief.

Medical aid was rendered immediately at the scene and Ratcliffe was transported to the hospital, where he passed away May 3.

Department officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the Home News Tribune of Middlesex County, Ratcliffe joined the Metuchen Fire Department in 1965, taking on the ranks of lieutenant, captain, assistant chief and department chief, serving in that role from 1991 through 1993. He served as the department safety officer until the time of his death.

His son Michael Ratcliffe, a volunteer firefighter in Hamilton, was also driving in the funeral procession and heard the call go out for an ambulance for his father.

He told the Tribune that retired Chief Harold "Skip" Breen, whose funeral they were attending, had been his father's best friend.