Widow of battalion chief: 'He said I can't take it anymore'

David Dangerfield committed suicide after struggling with PTSD

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. – Looking back, Leslie Dangerfield said the signals were subtle, but as the years went by her husband, Indian River County fire Battalion Chief David Dangerfield, was being tormented by post-traumatic stress disorder.

“One day, he had a breakdown at the house and just started crying,” she told News 6. "Started to ask me questions. What’s depression?, What’s anxiety?”

She said she looked it up on the internet and told her husband, “You have PTSD.”

She said he was confused, because he thought post-traumatic stress disorder was something
suffered by men and women in the military.

Leslie Dangerfield said there were conversations recalling memories of children and young adults he couldn’t save from 4 years ago.

Last October, David Dangerfield called his wife to let her know the demons that had been haunting him were too much, and he needed to escape.

“I begged him, screamed at him. Please, don’t leave those boys. They need you. I need you. He said, I can’t do it anymore, I love you and you’re a good mom, and he hung up the phone.”

The News 6 investigation into first responders suffering with PTSD caught the attention of state lawmakers.

On Thursday, state Rep. Mike Miller, of Orlando, filed an appropriations request that would allow workers' compensation for first responders suffering with PTSD.

In a statement released Thursday, Miller said, “It became evident after the horrific Pulse nightclub shooting last June that first responders may suffer with some of the very same issues as veterans when it comes to PTSD.”

Miller’s bill, HB 1019, goes hand-in-hand with an appropriations request for UCF Restores, a clinical research center at the University of Central Florida that provides “evidence-based” treatment for Florida veterans and first responders.

Former Orlando firefighter David Stern told News 6 PTSD is very real for him.

Stern said the flashbacks kept getting worse as the years went by.  “It was like boom, boom, boom, boom, one after the other.,” he said.

Stern said he was forced to retire, because he was convinced he was putting his crew at risk.

“That hurts," he said. "I feel like I didn’t finish the race. Not that I didn’t try my hardest, but I couldn’t finish.”

First responders diagnosed with PTSD who were not physically injured as well are not eligible for
lost wages.

On Tuesday, an amended first responder bill was file by state Senator Victor Torres of Orlando.

SB1088 clarifies language under the workers' compensation statue and separates the mental injury from the requirement of being related to a physical injury.

SB1088 is supported by the Blue and Red Movement, founded by Jessica Realin, wife of Pulse first responder Gerry Realin. A petition to support the bill is available here.

For more information on the organization, go to Facebook at Blue and Red Movement.

About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.