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Police Forced to Watch Bay Area Man Drown

Police Forced to Watch Bay Area Man Drown

Police, fire crews and passers-by in Alameda, Calif., stand along the beach on Monday while a man walked into the water and later drowned. [Oakland Local Police]

USAToday.com

June 02, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO – Fire and police teams say city policy and budget cuts are to blame for emergency teams watching from shore while a 52-year-old man apparently took his own life in the Bay Area surf near San Francisco on Memorial Day.

The San Jose Mercury News says Alameda police and firefighters responded quickly to a 911 call about an attempted suicide off Crown Beach, but firefighters could not enter the water because they are not trained in land/water rescue. Police stayed back because, they said, the victim, Raymond Zack, was suicidal and possibly violent.

Zack stood in the neck-deep water for nearly an hour — sometimes raising his arms above the surface — before he eventually floated away about 150 yards from shore, the newspaper reports.

Interim Fire Chief Mike D’Orazi said the department’s water rescue program was shelved in 2009 because of budget cuts, which affected training. As a result, department policy prevented firefighters from going into the water in such cases.

“We’re not trained to go into the water. Obviously, the type of gear that we have on, we don’t have the type of equipment that you would use to go into the water,” Alameda Police Lt. Joe McNiff said, KGO TV reports.


“Well, if I was off duty, I would know what I would do, but I think you’re asking me my on-duty response, and I would have to stay within our policies and procedures because that’s what’s required by our department to do,” Alameda Fire Division Chief Ricci Zombeck said when asked by KGO TV ABC7 if he would enter the water to save a drowning child.

At one point, Zack floated 150 yards out, but that was too shallow for a U.S. Coast Guard boat to reach him and its helicopter was on another call and arrived too late.

Eventually, when the tide brought the body closer to shore, a passerby swam out and pulled it onto the beach, witnesses said, according to the newspaper.

Mayor Marie Gilmore promises an investigation into the incident, the Mercury News reports.

At a hearing Tuesday evening, the policy that prevented trained people from intervening and rescuing people in distress was changed, NBC Bay Area reports.


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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    ltjohnson1979

    about 3 years ago

    8 Comments

    Politics in Ca are screwed up. Cities have to cut funding to certain areas but when it comes to LEO and Fire Rescue the mayors tell the Cheifs and Captains you make the decision or I make it for you. The Mayors are strong arming the LEO'S and Fire Rescue agencies. I personally would have grabbed a rope from the fire truck taken my pants and duty blet off given the rope to the guys to hold it and gone out to the suicidle individual even if I got in trouble, I know how to swim.

  • 014_max50

    securetexas

    about 3 years ago

    1038 Comments

    Politics and Emergency Services DO NOT MIX....
    A lot of comments and armchair quarterbacking going on with this, but let's look at the reality of it.. The responders who were there have to live with the results because of jack wagon suits who make policy...
    Good luck....

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    tremor2

    about 3 years ago

    430 Comments

    One last comment: This is what happens when POLITICIANS make decisions about WHAT first responders need with regard to equipment and training. It should be a wake up call for Police and Fire Depts. everywhere to get INVOLVED in the decision making/budget making aspects of all of our agencies. Leaving it up to civilians is just a recipe for disaster. Yes, those politicians are accountable for the $, but most of the time, they really have very little knowledge about what we do and what we need to maintain a level of readiness and efficiency.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    tremor2

    about 3 years ago

    430 Comments

    'Paco,' the female didn't 'rescue the deceased,' she RECOVERED THE BODY after the tide brought it closer to shore, according to the article. The man was already dead. It's a tough call to make, and I would hate to second guess any of those first responders there who possibly could have been seriously injured, OR WORSE, while violating their department's orders on these kinds of incidents. Would their own respective agencies cover THEIR injuries if they had gone into the water, with lack of training or proper equipment? Would they have prevented the suicide of a man who seemed determined to take his own life in those frigid waters? Lots of issues had to be sorted out by the people who responded to that scene. A lot of people will say 'I would have done different.' Possibly, possibly not. It's always is a tragedy when a first responder loses their life while attempting to rescue the life of someone very determined to end their own.

  • Pug_max600_max50

    DALLASCRANE

    about 3 years ago

    19382 Comments

    Getting fired for breaking the rules and helping a person not commit suicide is a very tough call. If the water is deep the rescuer could become the victim. Regrettably, I have seen good Samaritans injured trying to help. If I tossed him my line (50' rope), which I would have done, would he have grabbed it? I've worked the Suicide Hot Line and it ain't easy.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    ltshamus

    about 3 years ago

    6 Comments

    you take the spare tire from your car wade out there and offer it to him, if he takes it great, if he doesn't you have a barrier to use as protection from him grabbing on to you, but now your dealing w/ an edp who may try to take you w/ him... and i'm not gonna let that happen. I tried and did my part but if someone wants to kill themself sometimes you can't stop it, but regardless of policy you have to DO something

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    jpdsgtusmc

    about 3 years ago

    126 Comments

    I was not there, but never in my career have I ever watched a person die, without trying to do something.
    That goes against everything I dedicated my life to as a police officer. Sometimes, policy be damned!

  • Respect_max50

    oldtimer322

    about 3 years ago

    360 Comments

    @ silverhead....you need to tone it down a bit...you have 4 comments to your name...you'll make no friends here like that. I have mixed feelings about this one myself....I'm not a strong swimmer and I don't know what I would have done. But, be that as it may....a man who wanted to die, did. And those who watched, went home....I for one, am glad they did.

  • Herosonpatrol_max50

    BeachAngel

    about 3 years ago

    5892 Comments

    Tough call.. tough for them to watch as well... budgets, protocols, policies and training need some serious changing (too bad changes for the better weren't already in place beforehand). Condolences to all...

  • Quickley-b240_max50

    bill9823

    about 3 years ago

    2114 Comments

    If someone intends on killing themselves they often will take anyone with them that tries to stop them. They will also find another way to do it if stopped.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Paco1

    about 3 years ago

    10 Comments

    It took a 100lb, 22 year old woman to wade out to rescue the guy, unfortunately it was too late. The water depth was only 5 feet. Let's stand on the beach and watch him drown. Why even respond to the call?

  • Reblemac_max50

    Keiffer158

    about 3 years ago

    94 Comments

    Had the samething happen here last week and we have water rescue. If a man wants to kill himself he will, no need for untrained and ill equiped Officers or Firefighters to go in the water for someone that may kill him.

  • Half_dome_yosemite_national_park_max50

    TreeHugger719

    about 3 years ago

    464 Comments

    Yeah your paying taxes to pay us to keep people from killing themselves?! Riiiggghhhttt!!!!!!!

  • Half_dome_yosemite_national_park_max50

    TreeHugger719

    about 3 years ago

    464 Comments

    @Silverhead: How did this man NEED to be rescued?!?! So you are saying I should risk making my wife a widow to attempt to save the life of a person who is trying to kill themselves!!

    Tell you what hero, you go out there and get into those waters and attempt to save someone and then comeback and tell us what we NEED to do.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Paco1

    about 3 years ago

    10 Comments

    Alameda (like most municipalities) is starved by over-paid, non-performing bureaucrats with huge pensions. Bring back the volunteer fire dept, I'm sure they could figure out how to wade out to the guy and throw him a life ring.

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