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Death Benefits Awarded for Dale City EMT

After a three year process, Congressman Gerry Connolly, D-11, announces federal death benefits have been granted to the family of former Dale City Volunteer Fire Department EMT Cecilia Turnbough.


Cecilia Turnbough died during a traning exercise at the Prince William County Public Safety Academy.

By URIAH KISER

DALE CITY, Va. — The family of a Dale City EMT who died while training to become a firefighter will finally receive death benefits.

Cecilia Turnbough, 44, who had spent eight years with the Dale City Volunteer Fire Department as an EMT, died of a heart attack in November 2008 while in training at the Prince William County Public Safety Academy. She collapsed inside “The Maze,” a dark, smokeless room simulating a burning building where recruits wear breathing apparatus and are made to find their way to safety. The findings of a coroner’s report released in early 2009 stated she died of an enlarged heart.

Turnbough’s surviving husband and three children filed for state and federal death benefits following her death with assistance from the DCVFD, but they were denied. DCVFD Chief Christopher Hool then called Congressman Gerry Connolly, Va. – 11, and requested help in securing the benefits, and this time it worked.

Officials Friday said the decision by the U.S. Department of Justice and Virginia State Supreme Court to award death benefits to the Turnbough family is a game-changing move for all public safety workers.

“Our case was simple: Cecilia was a public safety officer. She was on duty at the time of her death. Her death was caused by training activity that she was engaged in at the time,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-11. “Further, if somebody else on the training ground had become ill during that training, Cecilia could have been called upon and would’ve provided assistance according to her status as an EMT and a member of this fire department.”

Turnbough’s family was notified last month of the newly granted federal benefits. It was news they, and members of the Dale City fire department, had waited nearly three years to hear.

“November 2008 was probably the darkest time in the history of the Dale City Volunteer Fire Department. I know it was a very tough time for me as chief of the department,” said Chief Christopher Hool. “Losing a member in the line of duty is something every chief fears.”

Prior to granting the benefits to Turnbough’s family, officials on the state and federal levels questioned whether Turnbough, an EMT, would classify as a firefighter, and if she is eligible for the firefighter death benefit. According to Connolly, Virginia resolved those questions in November 2010 when the Virginia State Supreme Court recognized Turnbough as a firefighter.

Through meetings with Attorney General Eric Holder as well as Hool and Turnbough’s family – who no longer live in the Dale City area – Connolly was able to have the earlier denial decision reversed.

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