Firefighter’s death during Ironman still mystery, memorial fund set for family

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MADISON (WKOW) — Madison firefighters are hoping for answers, after the sudden death of their colleague.

Firefighter and paramedic Todd Mahoney was found unresponsive in Lake Monona on Sunday, during the swim portion of the Ironman. He died at a hospital on Tuesday.

An autopsy was done Wednesday morning, but fire officials say the preliminary results show it’s still not clear how the otherwise healthy 38-year-old died.

Dane County Sheriff’s investigators are looking into Mahoney’s death and the death of another swimmer during the Ironman.

Todd Mahoney

Mahoney was one of the healthiest on staff at MFD, according to leaders.

“He worked out the way you’re supposed to work out, and he was a healthy young man. And he’s just a good dude all around, quite frankly,” said Lt. Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Fire Fighters Local 311 union.

Mahoney’s coworkers say he was a dedicated firefighter for a decade, promoted to apparatus engineer after a few years, which means he operated the fire trucks and equipment out on calls. He was a reliable member of the lifesaving staff.

“He’s right in that the core group of the 10-year members that are really starting to take off in the organization,” said Chief Steve Davis. “It makes it, as chief, even more tragic for me because those are the people you really rely on that are solid, day in and day out.”

The Reedsburg man was also a husband and father of three young boys. The family is holding funeral services for him on Father’s Day, as a special remembrance. Davis says they’ve been in touch with family members since Sunday, supporting them in any way possible.

“They’re very strong folks, you know, that it’s been impressive to watch them the last 72 hours or so,” he said.

Davis says the department has taken new steps to track the health of firefighters, after another colleague passed away suddenly last year. Rick Garner died of cardiac arrest, after living a healthy life.

Federal investigators with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) looked into Garner’s death. There were about half a dozen similar cases across the country within six months.

Chief Davis says he heard from that team just last week, who finished the report but didn’t find any answers.

“We still have no idea why Rick passed away. And so we at this point, we probably never will know,” he said.

Davis expects the department will likely get that report in a few months.

In that case, Garner had recently gotten off a 24-hour work shift before he died. Fire officials say Todd Mahoney hadn’t worked for several days before the Ironman and they say he had been training and felt prepared for the race.

Details of Mahoney’s funeral have not been finalized yet. A memorial fund has been set up to support Mahoney’s family. Donate to the fund HERE.

Mahoney was rescued from the water at 8:52 a.m. Sunday, and lifesaving attempts continued as he was transported to SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital, where he remained in critical condition.

Another swimmer, Michael McCulloch of Cottage Grove, died Sunday morning after being pulled from the lake.



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