Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

UMS employee died unexpectedly after being found in state of medical emergency in office

Posted on October 30, 2012 in News
By Kirsten Sylvain

David Norton, 45, senior communications specialist for the University of Maine System, died unexpectedly on Oct. 15 after he was found in his Portland office on Wed. Oct. 10.

Public Safety officer, Jeff Soper, responded to a call from another USM staff member concerned because Norton had not been present or in communication for a few days. The Public Safety log shows that officer Soper received the call at 7:44 a.m. on the morning of the 10th, and he answered the call shortly after, finding Norton in his office on the second floor of the Portland Science Building.

The door had been closed and locked, and a curtain over the door window prevented any co-workers or passers-by from seeing Norton inside. Norton was alive, although reportedly barely breathing when he was found and in a state of medical emergency requiring immediate care. He was immediately transported to Maine Medical Center where he died five days later.

According to Public Safety, Norton had been in his office on Friday evening and  made outgoing calls, and that was the last communication from his office recorded.

Although, it cannot be confirmed by record yet as the university has refused to release any report to The Free Press, one university employee and a good friend of Norton who prefers to remain unnamed, claims that Norton had been in his office over the duration of October break. That would mean that Norton had been confined to his office from Oct. 5 to the Oct. 10 when he was found by officer Soper.

“It would be difficult to say exactly when he came into his office,” said Director of Public Safety Kevin Conger.

One source, who also requested anonymity, stated that medical personnel determined that Norton had suffered a stroke, although it could not be confirmed by university officials or documentation, and Chief Conger would not comment on Norton’s health status or cause of death due to patient privacy laws.

Norton’s vehicle was parked in lot D1, the faculty parking lot located behind Luther Bonney in which overnight parking is not allowed. Over the period of time that Norton’s car was parked in the lot, he was issued three parking citations by public safety. When asked who issued the tickets, Conger responded that “various officers” had given the tickets although he could not confirm their names. The Free Press is still waiting on the name or names of the officers who issued the tickets.

Chief Conger responded to questions about campus parking stating that it was not uncommon for a person to leave his or her vehicle for an extended period of time knowing that it might be ticketed repeatedly. “If something happened and the garage was closed, sometimes people just roll the dice.”

The previously mentioned university employee and friend of Norton who spoke with The Free Press stressed that it was concerning that Public Safety was not alarmed by Norton’s car after days of being abandoned in the lot. This source also had questions about regular patrol protocol.

Craig Hutchinson, chief student affairs officer, responded to a question about protocol on the patrolling of office buildings in a statement to The Free Press. “This function is performed by on-duty Public Safety staff but in a random pattern and certainly does not include a patrolling or checking of all building rooms and offices. This would be an impossible requirement for limited staff, 80 or so buildings (on the Gorham and Portland campuses) and a large array of calls for the officer(s) on duty on any given shift to respond to.”

Statistics from a 2007 report provided to The Free Press by USM Public Affairs show that there are around 1,300 individual offices and 93 office buildings at USM across three campuses, although public safety does not respond to emergency calls at the Lewiston-Auburn campus. Public Affairs did caution that these numbers may have changed since the report was issued.


  • Guest

    There is an article in the Portland Press Herald today of his mother speaking of how policies should change so this doesn’t ahappen again.  My question is how did she not question no communication from her son for 5 days?  Regardless, this is no one’s fault just a rare, tragic event.  Condolences to his family and friends.

  • Typical University attitude.  Not pissed that college students can’t read, but very upset that someone noticed it.

  • Anonymous

    He was a communication specialist and from my understanding he was not a student. I dont think that the break applies to staff. If it does, then hell we need to tighten our system and stop allowing 5 day breaks in the middle of October!

  • K

    That is an incorrect statement that patient privacy laws only apply while the patient is alive.  HIPA carries into death, as well.

  • Phyllis Hyde

    I used to work in an out-of-the-way office far from the rest of my department.  Sometimes, I was there evenings or during a weekend alone in the building.

    Knowing that getting help to such a remote location was not good, and that in a medical emergency I might not be able to talk, I set up 2 draft e-mails:  one to the others in my department for use during regular business hours, and one to the security department for use during evenings and weekends when I might be alone in the building.

    Each of them said, “I am having a medical emergency.  Please send help immediately.”

    For both e-mails, they were stored in the “draft” folder.  All it took to activate either was 2 mouse clicks — one to open the e-mail and the other to send it.

    I suggest this to others who may not be able to summon help verbally to an out-of-the-way location or when alone in a building because it is not usual business hours.

    I am not sure I would have gotten help in time to save my life, but at least I wouldn’t be found days later. 

    Luckily, I never had to use either of them.

  • Anonymous

    It is hard to believe that in this day and age something like this could happen.  There are so many ways to communicate, but no one noticed this man’s absence from his home or regular routines.  If I don’t walk my dog for a day or two, my neighbors start calling to check on me. Guess I’m lucky. 

  • Anonymous

    What are you the hostile forum police? Every one of these people is expressing condolences… except YOU.  

  • Anonymous

    Holy cow…. what a bad attitude!  I mean really, can you get any more hostile?  What is this, forum rage?  Lighten up… it’s just an article.  Why not save all that rage and energy for something worthy of it.  

  • Anonymous

    Very sad for him. 

  • Anonymous

    Patient privacy laws only apply while the patient is alive. 
    I hope they change their procedures when it comes to issuing tickets repeatedly rather than investigating further. Were the Portland Police involved?  They need to determine if there was foul play.

  • Anonymous

    October 5 was a Friday (I think) which wasn’t a holiday.  The weekend represents time to the 7th.  I didn’t think Oct 8th and 9th were holidays but… if you say so.  Even still, I would think that there would be night time cleaning people on Friday night in a place this size, or perhaps someone, anyone to notice that he was still in the building. Maybe notice a light being on in his office… or something.   I know that there are some people who go home to an empty home and that is just so sad.  I feel for them and if this was the case for this poor man that makes his story even sadder.  May he RIP now. 

  • Anonymous

    I agree. How scared, sad and lonely he must have been to have noone check on him or have anyone that would call and check on him at least after a day or two. I cant imagine what was going through his mind all that time. It is so very sad. Condolences to his friends and whatever family he may have out there.

  • Anonymous

    Did you even read the story? It happened over Oct. break, and nobody was there! You’re calling him/his job a waste in the system, which is uncalled for. Read the story.

  • Anonymous

    Read the story! It happened over Oct. break…nobody was there (except him).

  • Bob

    Dave did not, unfortunately, have any family whom he lived with.

  • For those of you who don’t know how to read:

    “Norton had been in his office over the duration of October break. That would mean that Norton had been confined to his office from Oct. 5 to the Oct. 10 when he was found by officer Soper”

    Got that? OVER THE BREAK!.Co-workers would not have missed him, CAUSE THEY WERE NOT THERE!

  • Anonymous

    Further proof of waste in the system. Somebody that “works” not being in contact for at least 5 days and nobody notices? Poor guy, everyone deserves better

  • Guest

    That’s what I thought, but if you read the article, he actually was alive when they found him. Strange story.

  • Anonymous

    This is so sad. God rest his soul. 

  • Anonymous

    Even the possibility that this man was in his office October 5, possibly dying, until October 10 when he was discovered is shocking. Doesn’t he have family who would have expected him to be home in the evening? Don’t they have cleaning people at night in these buildings? I can’t understand why no one he worked with needed him for anything in this period of time.  I know that every job I ever worked at it would be noticed if I was 15 minutes late or slipped out 1/2 hour early. This is really hard to comprehend.  My condolences to the friends and family of this poor man who died alone. 

  • There are things here that just does not make sense. why didn’t his co-workers not notice his cut off of correspondence with them…did he not have family who would miss him in this time frame?? Sorry, I just can’t comprehend why he died with no one noticing his absence.

  • SierraTango

    “He was immediately transported to Maine Medical Center where he died five days later.”

  • Anonymous

    RIP friend!

  • Brunilda Muller

    My heart goes out to his family.  Just the thought that he died alone is disconcerting.

  • Nikitazkya

    No,  he was found barely alive and died 5 days later…

  • He died *after* he was found? Are you sure he wasn’t *found* after he *died*?

  • Anonymous

    Poor guy laying there all those days.