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Closed Fire Station: Heart Attack Victim Dies

The Daily News of Newburyport

May 25, 2011

NEWBURYPORT — A Woodman Way man died Thursday, three days after going into cardiac arrest while the nearest emergency response facility, the West End fire station, was closed due to a budget dispute between firefighters and Mayor Donna Holaday,

Andrew J. Soucy, 70, died Thursday at Portsmouth Regional Hospital in Portsmouth, N.H.

Soucy suffered a heart attack while attending a condominium association dinner last Monday. It took firefighters from the Greenleaf Street headquarters nine minutes to arrive at the scene, seven minutes longer than it would have had the West End fire station been open, according to fire officials. However, it was not immediately clear whether the delayed response contributed to his death.

Newburyport police officer John Schmidt, who was on routine patrol of the area, had been on the scene for five minutes and was administering life support by the time firefighters arrived. Soucy was later transported to Portsmouth Regional Hospital.

The West End station, located on Storey Avenue near Interstate 95, was closed by the mayor after three firefighters were out for the day, reducing the number of firefighters available down to five, below the staffing minimum for the station.

Holaday has speculated firefighters purposely did not show for work that day to protest her decision to reduce the minimum staffing levels in the department to five personnel per shift, down from seven. Holaday did so to avoid having to provide firefighters with an additional $65,000 worth of requested overtime funds needed to make it until June 30, the end of the fiscal year,

Firefighters denied that the three firefighters had purposefully stayed out of work to trigger the closure, saying one firefighter has been at fire training academy and the other two firefighters’ days off were planned long ago

Holaday did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Husband of the late Irene A. Soucy, Andrew Soucy leaves his son, David A. Soucy, and his wife, Brigid Laviazar, of Boston. Andrew Soucy was born in Chicago and lived there before moving to the Greater Lawrence area in 1955. He was a longtime Raytheon employee before his retirement in 2007. After his retirement, he served as a trustee of the Maritime Landings Condominiums and volunteered at the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport.

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