TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Mayor D. Michael Collins, who became an advocate for expanded attention to drinking water quality after Toledo's water supply was contaminated by toxins, died Friday, five days after suffering cardiac arrest while driving during a snowstorm. He was 70.
City spokeswoman Stacy Weber confirmed Collins died at the University of Toledo Medical Center.
Collins crashed his SUV into a utility pole on Sunday afternoon after his heart stopped beating, doctors and city officials said. He had earlier attended a news conference about the city's response to the storm and may have been checking road conditions.
Two passers-by found him unconscious and had to break a car window so they could give him CPR until emergency workers arrived.
"He died doing what he loved, serving the citizens of Toledo and being mayor to this great city," said a statement released by the city. "His ambitions were far reaching; he never believed he had to leave Toledo to achieve them."
Condolences came in from elected leaders throughout Ohio.
"Mayor Collins was a terrific man, I valued his friendship, and this is a tremendous loss for both Toledo and the state. He loved Toledo, he was a dedicated public servant, and he always did his very best for the people of that city," said Gov. John Kasich, who ordered that flags be flown at half-staff outside public buildings in Toledo.
City Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson has been serving as acting mayor and will be sworn in as mayor later. The city in November will hold a special election to select someone who will serve the rest of Collins' term.
Collins had just completed his first year as mayor of Ohio's fourth largest city. He was thrust into the spotlight in August when algae blooms in Lake Erie tainted the tap water for 400,000 people in Ohio and Michigan for two days.
In December, he testified before a U.S. Senate committee and called on the federal government to devote full attention to improving water quality in America's lakes and rivers. Collins warned that the toxic algae blooms could happen again if the problem isn't addressed.
"Don't give this lip service. It's a canary in the coal mine," Collins said. "If we forget what happened in Toledo, it is doomed to be repeated."
He began his political career after spending 27 years with the Toledo Police Department. He earned undergraduate and master's degrees from the University of Toledo while working for the department and taught criminal justice classes at the university.
A political independent, Collins was elected to the Toledo City Council in 2007. He made an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2009 but defeated incumbent Michael Bell four years later. Collins took office in January 2014.
His first year as mayor proved tumultuous. Two city firefighters were killed while fighting an apartment fire just a few weeks into his term. The city then suffered one of its worst winters ever.
The summer bought the algae blooms to Lake Erie, and Collins then found himself trying to keep Fiat Chrysler Automobiles from moving its Jeep Wrangler production line out of Toledo.
Collins grew up in Toledo and joined the Marine Corps after high school.
He is survived by his wife, Sandy Drabik, and three daughters.