A vintage fire truck is used as a hearse to transport fallen police officer and firefighter Sgt. Steve Splan of the Bloomfield Hills Public Safety Department to  his final resting place Aug. 7.

A vintage fire truck is used as a hearse to transport fallen police officer and firefighter Sgt. Steve Splan of the Bloomfield Hills Public Safety Department to his final resting place Aug. 7.

Photo by Deb Jacques


‘It’s the darkest day in Bloomfield Hills Public Safety History’

Bloomfield Hills officer remembered after sudden death

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published August 11, 2020

 Bloomfield Hills Public Safety Department Sgt. Steve Splan died Aug. 2, leaving behind a wife and four daughters. During his burial last week, the family was presented with his fire helmet.

Bloomfield Hills Public Safety Department Sgt. Steve Splan died Aug. 2, leaving behind a wife and four daughters. During his burial last week, the family was presented with his fire helmet.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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BLOOMFIELD HILLS — He was known around the department as a mentor for younger officers, a model father, a jokester and, more than anything, an exceptional public safety sergeant.  

Last week, law enforcement and fire departments from around metro Detroit and across the country came to pay their respects to Sgt. Steve Splan, of the Bloomfield Hills Public Safety Department, who died unexpectedly on the job Aug. 2. He was 46 years old.

According to Chief Noel Clason, Splan was found in the station’s kitchen, collapsed, unconscious from a suspected heart attack. Police, fire and EMS personnel immediately responded to administer CPR, and he was quickly transported to St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, where he was pronounced dead.

Clason said the sergeant had no known medical condition that might’ve triggered a cardiac incident, and pending results from the medical examiner, he thinks there’s a chance Splan put some undue stress on himself while moving a tree from the road earlier in the day.

“He was on fire duty from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. That afternoon, he used a chainsaw, which we usually do, to clear a tree off the road on Bloomfield Hills Parkway,” Clason said. “Then, from 4 p.m. to midnight, he was (scheduled) on patrol. He had no complaints (earlier that night). There was no indication he was in any trouble — he was just as happy and giddy as he usually is.”

Around 10 p.m. Sunday, after assisting another officer with a traffic stop, Splan had returned to the station for a meal break. He was preparing food in the kitchen by himself when he presumably suffered a heart attack. Despite quick aid, he couldn’t be saved.

“It can be a pretty strenuous job. This whole career and job is strenuous, lifting and operating power equipment can put a strain on anyone,” Clason explained.

Splan joined the city’s public safety department in 2005 and was promoted to sergeant last year. But he wore a number of hats, including fire investigator, public information officer and accreditation manager.

“Our accreditation, that’s because of Steve,” Clason said of the designation the department earned in 2018.

Before that, Splan worked for the Troy Fire Department starting in 1992 and was a graduate of Troy High School that same year.

“He mentored our younger officers. I’ll tell you, our younger ranks are taking this very hard, losing such a great person,” Clason added. “It’s the darkest day in Bloomfield Hills Public Safety History.”

That, the chief said, is about as far as he can go into the story while keeping his composure. Immediately, he thinks of the sergeant’s girls, a wife and four daughters ages 16, 13, 10 and 8.

“He was such a family man. It was all about his girls. There was nothing more important to Steve than his wife and his four daughters,” Clason said. “It made him happy every day to speak about them. Good or bad, whatever they were doing. If they were driving him crazy or succeeding at something, he was always telling us what they were up to.”

Lt. Dustin Lockard said Splan put in lots of time with his daughters’ dance teams, his church and neighborhood associations. When there was free time to be spared, Splan was a golfer and a talented, though modest, woodworker.

“He was always tinkering with something or working on a project around the house. Some of his wood projects, the stuff was just phenomenal,” Lockard said. “I always asked him to come over and do some things at my house, and he said, ‘No way.’ He would be too bothered with the imperfections.”

Lockard met Splan back in the early years of his career at the Troy Fire Department. Lockard, newly 18 at the time, joined up as a volunteer at the station with his father, who was a firefighter, and worked with Splan.

“I’ve known him since I was about 10,” he said. “He was always wanting to lend a hand, lend an ear. It’s a tremendous loss, personally and professionally.”

One of his favorite stories to share of Splan goes back to their time at the Troy Fire Department, during one of the department’s annual open house events. They were demonstrating for residents the hydraulic-powered Jaws of Life when a piece of the equipment malfunctioned.

“One of them actually burst and sprayed me in the face. But Steve knew exactly what to do. His quick thinking saved my butt,” Lockard said. “He pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re going to do exactly what I say, and we’re going to get you through this.’ Because of that, I didn’t have to go through a lot of the painful procedures I would’ve had to go through at the emergency room. Even the doctors remarked about it. I could’ve lost my vision.”

The viewing, funeral and burial wrapped up last week in Rochester. Now that the large, emotional proceedings are behind them, Clason said, the department will focus its energy into working with Splan’s family to take care of his daughters’ futures.

“We’re still putting together a way people can donate funds to the family. We’ll get information out to the community on our Facebook page about how people can do that,” he said.

Already, Splan’s community and Bloomfield Hills residents have shared memories and condolences on social media about the man who meant so much to so many.

“He was a well-rounded person. He was involved in so many aspects of life, not just work,” Lockard said. “He wasn’t known to people in his community as Steve the cop or Steve the firefighter. He was just Steve.”

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