Coroner: Scranton (PA) Firefighter Died from COVID-19 Pulmonary Embolisms

Stephen Sunday
Firefighter Stephen Sunday (Photo/Scranton Fire Dept. IAFF Local 60)

Jim Lockwood

The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

(MCT)

The death of a 28-year-old Scranton firefighter was caused by multiple pulmonary embolisms from COVID-19, Lackawanna County Coroner Tim Rowland announced Wednesday.

Stephen Sunday, who died Tuesday, previously tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus and was in quarantine at home when he became critically ill and was hospitalized, Rowland said.

A pulmonary embolism is a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs.

A firefighter since January, Sunday died at Geisinger Community Medical Center.

As of Dec. 16, the city said 14 firefighters had tested positive for COVID-19 and another six were in quarantine, bringing the number of personnel out to 20 in a department with 135 firefighters.

“We’re starting to see several of those members return to work,” Fire Chief John Judge said Wednesday.

In total, 32 fire, police and public works employees were off work because of positive COVID-19 tests as of Dec. 16.

Updated information on the number of city employees who have tested positive and were out of quarantine was not immediately available Wednesday.

Sunday is the only city employee to have died from COVID-19, city Business Administrator Carl Deeley confirmed Wednesday. Police officers and firefighters began receiving COVID-19 vaccines on Monday, he added.

Remembered by friends and colleagues for his enthusiasm and work ethic, Sunday followed in the footsteps of his maternal grandfather, John P. Lawless, in becoming a city firefighter. Lawless was a former city of Scranton fire chief, according to Sunday’s obituary, which appears HERE.

A 2010 graduate of West Scranton High School, Sunday was a standout baseball catcher and the first sophomore inducted into the Thousand Pound weightlifting club.

He also played for the West Side American Legion baseball team and hit a home run at Doubleday Hall of Fame Field in Cooperstown, New York.

Sunday earned an associate’s degree in physical education from the Sullivan County Community College in New York, and played on 2011 conference title baseball team. He was awarded the 2012 Chancellor’s Scholar-Athlete Award, one of two given throughout New York state annually, and the first at SCCC.

An avid Red Sox fan, Sunday then attended St. Thomas Aquinas College in New York, where he played on two championship teams and in the NCAA Division 2 College World Series.

After college, he played in the independent Frontier Baseball League in Michigan and Kentucky.

Sunday then became an emergency medical technician with Commonwealth Health Emergency Medical Services and was a certified deep-water scuba diver.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Saturday at noon at St. Patrick’s Church, 1403 Jackson St., in West Scranton, with social distancing and mask-wearing required.

Family and friends may pay their respects from 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. at the church.

With church occupancy limited to 75 people for the service, seating will be reserved for family and friends. Any additional seating will be for the Scranton firefighters, city officials, dignitaries and invited guests.

The Scranton Police Department will post no-parking signs in the 1400 block of Jackson Street for the services, and will detour traffic in the 1300 and 1400 blocks.

A funeral procession led by the Scranton Fire Department will travel to Cathedral Cemetery for interment. Active and retired city firefighters will march in formation to the cemetery.

“We will be properly sending off our brother,” Judge said.

The city and fire department requested that any outside agencies refrain from sending delegations, members or apparatuses because of public health concerns related to COVID-19.

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