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Firefighter, athletic trainer honored for saving basketball referee


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POCATELLO — An off-duty Pocatello firefighter and school athletic trainer were honored by the American Red Cross for helping save a basketball referee who suffered a major heart attack on the court.

Brian Underwood has reffed basketball games for decades but on Jan. 10, as the Highland High School 9th grade girls basketball team played Hillcrest High School, everything changed.

“He actually fell on the court,” Pocatello firefighter Jake Liday recalls. “It was obvious that he was having some sort of medical problem and was unconscious immediately.”

RELATED | Pocatello referee miraculously revived during high school basketball game

Liday was at the game watching his daughter play. He and several others rushed down to see what was wrong.

“He was struggling to breathe, didn’t have a pulse and we determined pretty quickly that he had some sort of cardiac event,” Liday tells

Highland’s athletic director, Keith Forkin, grabbed an automatic emergency defibrillator and shocked the 77-year-olds chest – hoping for success.

“The important thing is we had the right people there and the right equipment there,” Forkin says.


Underwood’s heart started to beat again and he was rushed to Portneuf Medical Center. Doctors learned he had a blocked artery and say he’s lucky he survived the ordeal.

“I’m doing real well,” Underwood said. “I feel like I’m on the mend even though I’m still a little sore in the chest.”

Underwood is recovering and thinks this may be a sign that it’s time to stop reffing.

Forkin and Liday were honored by the American Red Cross as East Idaho Real Heroes during a luncheon March 8. They say they’re glad they could help.

“I don’t do this job to get recognition,” Liday says. “Hopefully it may inspire someone else to take a CPR class and realize that they can do a lot actually by learning CPR.”


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