Michael Abt, a 12-year-old middle-schooler from Vero Beach, Fla., Josh Miller, a high-school middle linebacker from Barberton, Ohio, and Connecticut lawyer Michael Sage, 29, all died when their hearts suddenly stopped beating.
But though their hearts also abruptly went still, Mary Tappe, a 45-year-old executive from Denver; Richard Strain, a financial officer from Canton, Ohio; and Claire Dunlap, a 15-year-old high-school softball centerfielder from Boynton Beach, Fla., survived.
Each was stricken by sudden cardiac arrest when they were nowhere near a hospital. None knew that he or she was at risk from a heart-rhythm problem that kills more than 350,000 people in the United States each year, according to the American Heart Association.
The difference: Those who survived had a chance at life because there were people around them ready and willing to quickly intervene -- and a nearby automated external defibrillator, or AED, that could shock the heart back to normal rhythm. The American Red Cross estimates that as many as 20,000 of those deaths a year could be prevented if AEDs were more prevalent across America.
Dunlap calls herself "living proof of what an AED can do." The athletic trainer at the field where she collapsed in 2008 quickly determined that she needed an AED and delivered three shocks to her chest before her heart began beating again.
"I would not be here if it was not for that," she said.