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LCSO sergeant dies in Charity football game

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Sheriff’s sergeant dies in charity game

Mark Niedermeyer, 44, collapses during Charity Bowl

by Carl Bleich, cbleich@news-press.com and Gabriella Souza, gsouza@news-press.com

A Lee County sheriff’s sergeant died while playing in the annual Charity Bowl on Friday night.

Sgt. Mark Niedermeyer, a 14-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, collapsed during the football game against a team of Lee County firefighters and died on the field at the Lee Civic Center in North Fort Myers.

Emergency personnel attempted to resuscitate Niedermeyer on the field, before rushing him to Lee Memorial Hospital.

Doctor Aaron Wohl of Lee Memorial said it appeared Niedermeyer had suffered a massive heart attack.

Wohl said Niedermeyer had a history of heart problems.

Niedermeyer, 44, is survived by his wife and three children who were at the game.

“We had a great event at the Lee Civic Center,” a tearful Sheriff Mike Scott said during a news conference at Lee Memorial. “It turned tragic.

“I don’t need to tell you how (seeing) that was, with the families and friends gathered, co-workers.”

About 2,000 people attended the game.

Niedermeyer had opened the game’s scoring by catching a 13-yard touchdown pass thrown by Jason Steinke.

With 3:37 remaining in the third quarter, Niedermeyer was involved in a hard collision while playing defense. The rest of the players got up from the ground, but Niedermeyer remained on the field, said game announcer Todd Mosher.

“I saw him hit the boards and go down, and before he hit the ground, (the players) knew,” Mosher said.

Players rushed to the field, motioned and yelled for help. Firefighters began CPR, said Jim Zajas, who was part of the officiating crew and is a News-Press employee.

“They jumped right in there and started working,” Zajas said.

As Niedermeyer was carried off the field, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies put aside their competitiveness, Zajas said.

“They got together in the middle of the field and prayed for him,” he said.

The rest of the game was canceled.

Players on both teams seemed stunned.

“He’s been with us a long time,” said Jake Stutzman, Niedermeyer’s teammate, immediately after the game. “He’s a good man.”

Niedermeyer played on the sheriff’s team, called the Sheriff’s Posse, since the bowl’s inception in 1997, according to The News-Press archives.

Niedermeyer was involved in a countywide operation that uncovered 66 marijuana grow houses in December. He was recently moved into the investigations department said John Sheehan, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.

The charity game is named after sheriff’s Sgt. Felix Romano, who died in a car crash in 2006 while on his way home from the game in which he served as a coach.

This is the 11th year the game has been played, but the third in which deputies have played firefighters.

Proceeds from this year’s game were to benefit the families of Estero firefighter Paul Reynolds, Deputy Margena Nunez and fire inspector Neil Little.

Reynolds died last February after suffering a heart attack shortly after going off duty. Little, a member of the Lehigh Acres Fire Department, has been diagnosed with cancer. Nunez died in October 2006 after being struck by a drunken driver while directing traffic around another crash.
 
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