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Dolton Firefighter Collapses, Dies After Responding To Fire In Harvey

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Lawrence Matthews died doing what he loved. The dedicated Dolton firefighter collapsed Saturday afternoon while battling a fire in neighboring Harvey.

Matthews went into cardiac arrest while responding to a fire near 150th and Maplewood in Harvey around 1:30 p.m. He was taken to Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, but never regained consciousness, and was pronounced dead at 3:15 p.m.

Chicago and suburban police officers and firefighters saluted the ambulance carrying Matthews' body in a solemn procession to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.

Dolton Firefighter Lawrence Matthews
Lawrence Matthews, a Dolton firefighter, died after going into cardiac arrest while responding to a fire in neighboring Harvey, Illinois. (Source: University of Chicago Medicine)

Matthews, 35, was a husband and father of four, who had been with the Dolton Fire Department since 2009.

"Lawrence Matthews was full of life, full of joy. He'd light up a room when he'd come in. He was always invested in community. He did everything for community; and as you could see, he cared about people. He cared about lives," Dolton Village Trustee Tiffany Henyard said.

Dolton firefighters had been called in to assist the Harvey Fire Department on Saturday, after multiple mobile homes caught fire near 150th and Maplewood. Officials said Matthews was on the sidewalk after arriving at the scene when he went into cardiac arrest.

"He just collapsed. At that point, we immediately tried to see what was going on with him, and he was unresponsive," Harvey spokesman Sean Howard said.

Medics took Matthews to Ingalls Memorial Hospital.

"An hour later he passed away. His wife was by his side; kids were here. A flurry of firemen and policemen from all over were here," Howard said.

Matthews was no ordinary firefighter. He could climb a 100-foot ladder, and drag a 180-pound dummy out of a building the same as any other, but he was one of the few anywhere who did it with a transplanted heart.

"To lose your life doing what you love is a big blow, a horrible blow," Howard said.

Matthews was a heart transplant recipient who had defied the odds to become a firefighter. Just two years after he received his new heart at the University of Chicago Medicine, Matthews became a firefighter with the blessing of his doctors.

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