First Arriving Network
First Arriving Network

Updated: Fire and Police Stand By and Watch Man Drown

A Big Island With No Boats?

Update, 4:30 pm Eastern:  The Alameda FD has changed its policy re: water rescues.  Scroll down.

THE ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA, FIRE AND POLICE DEPARTMENTS find themselves in a very embarrassing situation this morning after not taking any actions to save a man who was drowning in the San Francisco Bay Monday.  Witnesses say that the unidentified man in his 50's walked out into the water while fully clothed until he was neck-deep where he stopped and just stood there.  The obviously troubled man remained there as if he was resigned to perish on the spot.

The Alameda Police and Fire Departments both responded quickly, but the gathered first-responders just stood on the shore and watched the man.  The FD called the U. S. Coast Guard to respond and 20 minutes later they showed up with a boat that was unable to navigate the shallow waters where he man was standing.  Next came a call for the Coast Guard's rescue helicopter that was already on another mission.  When it was free from that task, it had to be refueled before responding to Alameda and arrived on scene about 65 minutes after the dispatch.

Alameda police offiders and firefighters stand by and
watch the man slowly die.  (ABC7 News image)

In the meantime, after about an hour the victim apparently succombed to hypothermia and lost consciousness.  With all of Alameda's rescuers watching, he collapsed into the water and drowned.  An off-duty nurse who is an expert swimmer and trained lifeguard swam out to the victim and pulled him to shore where the firefighters began resuscitation efforts, but it was too late to be effective.

Following the debacle, the police department issued a statement that said in part, "(the) Alameda Fire Department does not currently have, and is not certified, in land-based water rescues. The city of Alameda primarily relies on the United States Coast Guard for these types of events."

ABC7News filed this video report from the scene:


The Oakland Tribune carried the story HERE.

Firegeezer wants to know:  Alameda is an island – an island! – and yet they don't have so much as a small boat or Zodiac-type shallow water rescue craft?  What gives here?  And this excuse that they are "not certified in land-based water rescues"?  Where does that come from?  What percentage of the thousands of fire departments with Zodiacs seek out this so-called certification?  This stinks!!

Update, 4:30 pm Eastern:
Within a few hours after this story broke and then went viral on most fire/rescue websites around the world, the Alameda Interim Fire Chief announced that "rescue swimming" classes will begin immediately and proper certification for every firefighter will be restored.  The water rescue program had been cut by the city council in 2009 as a cost-saving move.  KGO-TV San Francisco now reports:

The Alameda fire chief said the mood is somber at the fire departments today. The chief said it is time for a policy change and to find a way to pay for the water rescue program.

"I was troubled and disappointed obviously. I think it was a deeply regrettable incident that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago," said Alameda Fire Chief Michael D'Orazi.

D'Orazi has been the interim fire chief for a week. He said he can't answer for the past, but he is going to meet with the police chief to discuss what happened on Sunday. He has also ordered a rewrite of the water rescue policy and has announced that firefighters will begin rescue swimming training immediately. After all ,they work for a city that calls themselves a city of homes and beaches.

The city council has a scheduled budget meeting tonight and Chief D'Orazi says he will be available if they want to talk to him about the situation.

KGO-TV also filed this updated video report:


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