U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, CO — Deficiencies in the U.S. Air Force Academy's athletics automatic external defibrillator training (AED) program may have been a contributing factor in the death of Cadet 4th Class Edward Schmeltz earlier this year, according to the military's Ground Accident Investigation Board report that was issued in July.
The board found that the AED was inadvertently misconfigured in an unintended mode of operation, which resulted in confusion for the academy personnel who lacked the knowledge and training of that operation mode.
The cause of death was natural, resulting from a fatal cardiac arrhythmia from pre-existing structural abnormalities of the arteries of the heart, which resulted in sudden cardiovascular collapse following strenuous exercise.
Cadet Schmeltz collapsed Jan. 31, following a 600-yard run as part of a physical fitness test, and could not be resuscitated despite immediate use of CPR and the AED by academy members on the scene. An ambulance team continued resuscitation efforts during transport to the academy hospital where he received further treatment from hospital emergency staff. Despite their efforts, he died at the medical facility.
Academy officials have instituted several changes since the incident, including purchasing new, easier-to-operate defibrillators, reconfiguring those still in existence until replacement by the new systems, and retraining people on operation of the defibrillators. In addition, appropriate Air Force agencies and the Food and Drug Administration were advised of the investigation board's findings.
Five states, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Louisiana have passed laws mandating the employment of AEDs in various public places including fitness facilities.