OTTUMWA — A former Ottumwa firefighter and Wapello County’s emergency management coordinator are among those being credited with saving a man’s life Wednesday after he suffered a heart attack during RAGBRAI.

The incident happened about 15 miles northwest of Centerville. Ottumwa Fire Chief Tony Miller said he got a call about it Wednesday night.

“One of the guys used to be with our department and [EMC Coordinator] Tim Richmond was in it,” Miller said. “You talk about being in the right place at the right time. The guy went down literally right in front of them.”

The riders began giving the man CPR, and Iowa State Patrol Trooper Bob Conrad brought an AED, a portable device that can shock the heart back into a normal rhythm. They were able to get the man’s pulse going again. Reports said he was taken to Centerville by ambulance before being taken to a Des Moines hospital by helicopter.

While most of the focus is on the fun associated with RAGBRAI, experienced riders know serious incidents also happen along the route. Firefighter Derek Fye, a founder of the Ottumwa Fire Department’s bike team, told the Courier earlier this year that the trip is “a lot more dangerous than I ever thought it would be.” He said he has seen a number of serious accidents.

Wednesday’s incident would definitely fall into the category of a serious incident. But, thanks to some quick work by people who happened to be in position to help, the victim will live to ride another day.

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