PORTLAND, Maine — A Portland firefighter who died while scuba diving Monday afternoon suffered a heart attack, according to preliminary findings of the state medical examiner’s office.
Portland Fire Department Capt. Michael Kucsma, 43, was found unconscious in the water near the Maine Yacht Center on Kensington Street just after 3:30 p.m. on Monday. Attempts by rescuers to revive him were unsuccessful.
According to a Wednesday night news release by the Portland Fire Department, the state medical examiner’s office in Augusta determined that Kucsma died of natural causes while diving.
“This report is bittersweet, allowing his family and co-workers additional peace of mind. Yet there is still the task of saying goodbye to a son, a husband, a brother and a friend,” Portland Fire Chief Jerome LaMoria said in a statement Wednesday night.
In addition to his job with the Portland Fire Department, Kucsma was a deputy chief with the Gorham department.
Kucsma responded to an emergency call in Gorham earlier in the day before he died, so department and union leaders in Portland and Gorham are both filing the paperwork necessary to designate the incident as death in the line of duty.
That designation would trigger certain benefits for Kucsma’s family, according to the Portland department announcement.
“While this will never bring Mike back, if approved, this will provide some security to his family,” LaMoria said.
In addition to Kucsma, 20 other Portland firefighters have died in the line of duty throughout the department’s history. Prior to Kucsma, the most recent was Frank Cowan, who suffered a heart attack while fighting a fire in a Congress Street restaurant in 1993.
Kucsma is survived by his wife, mother and father.
LaMoria said earlier this week Kucsma was an avid diver who was with a group of seven other divers in the area of Tukey’s Bridge, spanning the entry to the city’s Back Cove. Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuk said when the rest of the diving party surfaced, members determined Kucsma was missing and they proceeded to search for him.
Kucsma joined the department in 1993 as a firefighter and was promoted to captain in 2006. He was assigned to Engine 6 at Bramhall Station on Congress Street in Portland.
Kucsma started his career in 1991 at the Gorham Fire Department’s then newly created live-in program for student firefighters, according to Gorham Fire Chief Robert Lefebvre.
BDN staff writer Darren Fishell contributed to this report.