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Tragic Death of Greensboro Firefighter During Chicago Marathon

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Fire Captain Will Caviness, 35, was running for IAFF Burn Fund

Sad news from the IAFF on the loss of a firefighter and dedicated union member:

It is with deepest regret and sorrow that the IAFF reports the death of Captain William Caviness, a member of Greensboro, NC Local 947. Brother Caviness, 35, died suddenly today while running the Chicago Marathon on behalf of the IAFF Foundation’s Burn Fund Fitness Team.

"Will was a friend, a brother, and a leader in our department. He had an unwavering commitment to his family, his profession, and to the charitable work of the IAFF Burn Foundation. He will be greatly missed,” said Dave Coker, president of Local 947.

The Chicago Tribune described Caviness as a "lifelong athlete and veteran marathoner from North Carolina who signed up for the Chicago race aiming to raise $2,000 for burn victims."

As the race neared, Caviness posted on Facebook about training with runs of three, five and 20 miles, sometimes bringing along his baby daughter in a stroller. His wife and brother accompanied him to Chicago as spectators, his uncle said, while his father posted encouraging words online as the race moved on.

"VERY PROUD...WAY TO GO!!!" his father wrote on Facebook.

Captain William Caviness

The Greensboro News & Record reports that Caviness, who was on track to finish the marathon in three and a half hours when he collapsed, was an experienced runner:
He trained for the Chicago Marathon for two years and often would run about seven miles from his home to Greensboro Fire Station 14 on Summit Avenue, where he worked 24-hour shifts. “He was one of the most physically fit people I’ve known,” said Timothy Fields, the station’s other captain.
Caviness was just 500 yards from the finish line when he fell to the ground, says Fox 8 WGHP:
Five to six emergency medical doctors in addition to EMS personnel were stationed nearby, and there was "an immediate response, within seconds," race medical director Dr. George Chiampas said. Medical personnel were able to get the runner's heart beating again, but he died an hour and 30 minutes after he was attended to, Chiampas said.
Caviness joined the Greensboro Fire Department in 2003, where he served with his brother, Sean Caviness. In December 2010, Caviness was promoted to the rank of fire captain and led fire engine crew 14 on Summit Avenue.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the entire Caviness family in this tremendous loss of Capt. Will Caviness,” says Greensboro Fire Chief Gregory Grayson. “The Greensboro Fire Department family is grieving this great loss and will strive to support the Caviness family through this difficult time."

Captain Caviness in his role as fire safety and prevention educator.

Caviness said on his fundraising page that he was running for the IAFF Foundation's Burn Fund because he valued its mission and "the dedication to improve the quality of life for burn victims, especially children." The Burn Fund also supports fire safety education and prevention. Before beginning the Chicago Marathon, Will had raised a little over $2,400. Since news of his death, donations have poured in and as of this writing have reached almost $14,000. IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger says Will took his work as a firefighter "beyond his call to duty."
"Throughout his career, Brother Caviness showed the true spirit of giving, especially helping those who needed it the most."
The North Carolina State AFL-CIO stands in solemn solidarity with our fallen union brother, Captain Will Caviness. Our hearts and thoughts go out to the Caviness family - including his family at the Greensboro Fire Department and in Local 947, those who knew Will and called him their friend and brother, too. We strongly urge our readers to join us in supporting the IAFF Foundation's Burn Fund with a contribution in Will's memory. Click here to visit his fundraising page and make your donation, today. Additionally, a memorial fund has been established to benefit Will's wife, Jenny, and his two children, Jack (4) and Caroline (10 months). Click here for details.