MOUNT GILEAD — An officer who got his start with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office died from an unspecified medical emergency while responding to a fire late Saturday Night.
Officer Craig Cloninger, an Ellerbe native, was part of the Mount Gilead fire and police departments’ response to a home engulfed in flames on Northview Road when he suffered a medical emergency and became unconscious, according to a press release issued Sunday morning.
The release states that emergency medical services personnel on the scene began life-saving measures and took Cloninger to FirstHealth Montgomery Memorial Hospital, but he did not survive.
Cloninger, 38, began his career in 2002 with RCSO and later went to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, where he was a School Resource Officer at East Montgomery High School. He also served on the Biscoe Police Department.
“The death of an officer is a tragic event; it touches the hearts and emotions of everyone, not only in the department, but the community as a whole,” Chief Pat Preslar said in a statement. “When it involves someone as young as Craig, who has children, it is even more difficult.”
According to the release, Cloninger was married with two daughters.
“We will miss him tremendously as he was an integral part of the Mount Gilead Police Department team,” Presslar added.
The department posted a photo of Cloninger with the release and later posted photos of a patrol car he was driving Saturday night adorned with a spread of flowers.
According to the post, that car was Cloninger’s favorite and he “just mentioned yesterday evening how he wanted to be the first to bid on this vehicle when it went to surplus. “
In a more recent post, Preslar thanked the first responders on the scene:
“I would like to take the opportunity to recognize and commend the Mount Gilead Fire Department personnel who were assisting us on the fire scene on Northview Road. As usual, they sprang into action upon arrival, selflessly addressing the fire while officers and EMS personnel stood by, waiting to assist.
Then the unthinkable happened, Officer Cloninger of the Police Department, suffered a medical emergency and fire and EMS personnel seamlessly transitioned into life saving mode. They worked valiantly to stabilize Craig so he could be transported to the hospital as quickly as possible.”
According to the press release, a body was found inside the residence that caught fire.
The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, offices of the State Fire Marshal and Chief Medical Examiner and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting the police department in the investigation.