Baltimore Co. executive Kamenetz called 911 from fire station before losing consciousness

WASHINGTON — Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz called 911 from the parking lot of a volunteer fire department in the predawn hours of Thursday, about an hour before he died, fire and medical officials said.

At a news conference Thursday morning, Elise Armacost, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Fire Department, gave more details about the hours leading up to the death of Kamenetz, who was also one of seven Democratic candidates running for governor. Citing the county charter, Armacost also said that County Administrative Officer Fred Homan would serve as acting county executive until the council appoints a replacement.

Kamenetz, who was 60, made the 911 call at about 2 a.m. from the parking lot of the Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Company, about two miles from his house, Armacost said.

Two volunteer firefighters who were sleeping at the station came down and met Kamenetz and his wife, Armacost said. They took him into the station to examine him and begin life support, and he “quickly deteriorated,” losing his pulse and breathing, Armacost said.

The volunteers did CPR on Kamenetz, used a defibrillator, began an IV and waited for an ambulance from the Garrisonville Fire Company, who took him to the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. They were able to restore a pulse briefly, but not consciousness, Armacost said.

He arrived at about 3 a.m. Medical personnel continued to work on Kamenetz there. Dr. Gail Cunningham, the senior vice president for medical affairs and chief medical officer at the hospital, said he was in full cardiac arrest when he got there, and they were never able to restore a heartbeat.

He had ventricular fibrillation, “a very common arrhythmia that we see when someone has had cardiac arrest,” Cunningham said. She said it was “very difficult” to treat. “Many times” it can be treated in the field, she added; “many times it cannot.”

Kamenetz was pronounced dead at 3:22 a.m. He never regained consciousness after he collapsed at the volunteer fire station, Armacost said.

Richard Schenning, of the Baltimore County Fire Department, said that Kamenetz had “absolutely” gotten the same care from the volunteers that professional firefighters would have given, and that there’s “very little difference in the first 10 or 15 minutes” between the care a patient gets in an ambulance and in a hospital.

It’s not known whether Kamenetz or his wife were driving, or why they decided to take their own car rather than calling 911 from home. Cunningham said “I really don’t know” whether it would have made any difference. “Time is everything” in a cardiac situation, she said, but she didn’t know how long Kamenetz had been suffering symptoms.

Kamenetz died hours after a candidates forum at Bowie State University. Those who knew him said he seemed to be in excellent health. Cunningham said he had no known history of heart problems.

Sometimes people will have a little chest pain, with sweating or nausea, as a warning for cardiac arrest, but people also suffer “the occasional out-of-the-blue, who knows why … it just happens.”

Armacost said the family had declined an autopsy.

Armacost, who had known Kamenetz since the early 1990s, said “I certainly was totally shocked” to receive the news of Kamenetz’s death, “as anyone would be.” She described “a lot of tears and disbelief” as Kamenetz’s chief of staff, Don Mohler, called people to inform them.

“He was always on his staff about their eating habits,” Mohler told WBAL-TV, adding that he was “religious” about eating right and exercising.

Kamenetz’s funeral is set for Friday at the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. He will be buried at Baltimore Hebrew Cemetery. Contributions in his memory may be made to the American Cancer Society and the Baltimore Humane Society. Get more details about how to contribute here.

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