U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, CO -- According to an Air Force report, 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.
The Ground Accident Investigation Board report suggests that deficiencies in the academy’s athletics automatic external defibrillator training program were a contributing factor to Cadet Schmeltz’s death. The device 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. He received immediate medical treatment on the scene from academy employees who initiated CPR and used an automatic external defibrillator.
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 occurred, 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.