Madison Fire Department is ‘really hurting’ following death of firefighter, Ironman athlete

The Madison Fire Department has a hole where firefighter Todd Mahoney should be, said Fire Chief Steven Davis.

“I think the whole organization is really hurting,” Davis said. “He’ll leave a big hole.”

Mahoney was competing Sunday in the swimming portion of the half-Ironman 70.3-mile triathlon race when a kayak safety team member found him unresponsive in the lake. Davis said he was brought to shore, where firefighters and paramedics from his own department resuscitated him.

“We respond to emergencies, so we’re used to seeing really, really bad things throughout the community. We can never prepare or be ready to respond to one of our own,” said Fire Fighters Local 311 President Mahlon Mitchell during a joint news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Mahoney remained in critical condition for two days until he died Tuesday at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital.


Mahoney, a 38-year-old who lived in Reedsburg, was a nine-year veteran of the Fire Department and worked as an apparatus engineer at Fire Station 1 downtown.

He is survived by his wife and three sons under the age of 11.

“When we have an occurrence like this, we always say, ‘Well, the person was a great guy,’ but Todd really was. He loved the job. He exemplified that on-duty and off-duty,” Mitchell said.

The Dane County Sheriff’s Office and Medical Examiner’s Office are still investigating Mahoney’s death.

“We always want to try to find a reason why (it happened) for closure, but doctors couldn’t give us a reason why this happened, so that makes it that much harder to kind of comprehend,” Mitchell said.

He and Davis described Mahoney as a “health enthusiast” who was physically fit and closely monitored the nutritional value of what he ate. They knew he had been training for the competition. Three other members of the Fire Department also participated in the Ironman competition, Davis said.

Officials said the funeral service would be Sunday, and it is no coincidence that is also Father’s Day. The family wanted to have his funeral on that day, demonstrating the love he had for his children.

“It’s very clear what an impact he has on those three little boys,” Davis said.

Mahoney was the second man to die following the Ironman competition.

Michael McCulloch, 61, of Cottage Grove, drowned Sunday in Lake Monona during the competition. Officials said the initial autopsy results determined the drowning occurred while McCulloch was having a “medical event.”

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