First responders watch as man drowns

June 1, 2011

First responders watched as a man drowned in the San Francisco Bay because policies did not allow them to enter the water. [CNN]

The man was apparently suicidal, entered the bay off Alameda Beach on Monday and stood in neck-deep water, then treaded water.  Police and firefighters were called to the scene. They watched from the bank as the man drowned.

City officials said that police did not want first responders to enter the water in case the man was armed. In addition, Alameda officials told CNN that because of a lack of funding for shore-to-water rescue, firefighters had no one properly trained to go into the water.

Following the man’s death, Alameda changed its policies regarding water rescues.

The events of Memorial Day were “very difficult and very regrettable,” Alameda Interim Fire Chief Michael D’Orazi told CNN Wednesday.

The firefighters on the beach “were incredibly frustrated by this whole situation,” he said, adding that “they wanted to get in, they wanted to take action.”

A woman ultimately tried to save the drowning man, but was too late, and ended up pulling his body to shore, CNN said.

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Of all public servant/ civil service positions from President, Governor, County Supervisor, Mayor and all other chains below, ALL MY LIFE, I have respected fireman is the highest respect, next comes the teachers.

I don’t know whether the policy is correct or not.

I do believe discretionary authority should be given to the commander at the scene.

“discretionary authority should be given to the commander at the scene”

It was.


And what do we these guys to do? Considering Oakland has severely taxed the marijuana dispensaries, shouldn’t that money have gone into public safety? Noooooooo….just into the general fund for the pensions for these absolute neanderthals that couldn’t/wouldn’t do anything. Heck, if i was there, I would have attempted a rescue. We are so f’d up with our governments including local, state, and federal. The badge has become an avenue to an easy meal ticket for these losers. May those people who made the decision (police) rot in hell.

Unbelievable standup. You’ve got some crazy person who wants to kill themselves and you find a way to blame the good people who are following the rules.

I don’t think that we’re all so fond of “the rules” anymore. After every politician, and the police, have made a mockery out of the rule law, it starts to tlose its appeal.

Bob….you are the one who should be ashamed. You are pointing the blame in the wrong direction. The city of Alameda, would not pay for the training and or certification required for these firefighters to be able to to do this rescue safely. Are you saying that these firefighters should have just jumped in to the water with no training and against the policies put in place by the city and the order of the police department…..for some guy who WANTED to kill himself? This is not the wild, wild west. Now a days Bob, firefighters have to go through extensive training so they themselves can stay safe while rescuing others. Maybe when you were a firefighter, back in the day, you shot from the hip, acted without thinking, made your own rules and didn’t have to have any qualifications.

The City of Alameda should be horrified by thier choice in budget cuts becuase as you can see in this case, budget cuts to public safety resulted in an unessary death.

@slojo…geez! Remind me not to ever hang out with you. I am with Bob on this one. I am glad that I wasn’t there to witness this drowning; because I am sure I would have needed lifelong therapy if I sat idle and watched someone drown right in front of my own eyes. This is very sad.

slocorruptionhater…….hey, I am all for helping people out and firefighters do that on a daily basis.

Let’s just say that the firefighters disobeyed thier order and went in. So many things could have happened including the guy freaking out, getting violent, brandishing a weapon, he could have been high as a kite.

Or, they could have dragged the guy out and this guy could turn around and sue the city of Alameda and the firefighters for going against policy and saving his life.

When people say the firefighters should have went against policy, you have to think about what that could mean for them. Yes, losing thier job and pension. The cities need to let firefighters be firefighters without the threat of discipliary action in these situations.

I know there are firefighters who are paramedics but the city will not let them function as a paramedic. So if this firefighter is on a call where someone needs paramedic assistance, he can’t do anything becuase the city won’t let him. Is he supposed to disobey policy and authority?

“Is he supposed to disobey policy and authority?” HELL, YES!!!

Where is your humanity?

I am gonna make up bumper stickers declaring: ” Screw policy: Save a life ! ”

This story and your post is perfect example of what is wrong in this world.

Maybe it wasn’t the policy and authority that was the issue, but the possibility of losing their job. I try not to sit in judgment of someone when I don’t know the reality they have to face every morning when they awaken.

Sophie’s Choice, where there are no good choices.

They could have always had the Good Samaritan defense… claimed they acted as a concerned citizen… bah, woulda-coulda-shoulda…

You don’t think there will be a lawsuit? I’d like to hear a lawyer’s opinion but won’t the family have some kind of case to bring about against the city?

The cowards standing on shore should’ve jumped in, tried to do something. Most suicide survivors (gunshot wounds, bridge jumpers, etc) are GLAD they were unsuccessful.

And Danika’s right. YES, you disobey a policy if it’s a crappy one and YES, you disobey authority if someone’s drowning before your very eyes.

Your thought process has been seriously warped by modern day first responder practice, SERIOUSLY. This has NOTHING to do with budget cuts and EVERYTHING to do with another entitlement class. But it has become obvious that you are just a “true believer,” always backing the boys in blue and firefighters no matter what the situation.

Why is it you aren’t blaming the city for specifically cutting water rescue and stating in a memo that the firefighters are NOT to enter the water?

Some of us have something called integrity and would disregard such an order even at the risk of our personal safety and our jobs.

I’m calling your bluff on that one.

I once helped two old people from a vehicle which was on fire. I wasn’t even getting paid for it, imagine that. I never got nor sought credit for it. Separately, I have built my career on standing up to B.S., risking my job more than a few times because I would not stand by while people were acting like idiots, nor keep my mouth shut to avoid conflict.

You know what, you’ve got EXACTLY the mentality people are ticked off about, and you just *don’t get it.*

what you don’t get is that I agree that first responders should help everyone. HOWEVER, the cities they work for need to allow them to be fully trained, prepared, equipped and staffed to safely do it. The city should not put restrictions on how they can or can’t help people.

In life, you cannot always be fully trained and prepared for what is about to happen. That is why these are supposedly “heroic” people, because they will risk their lives to save others. If they will not do so, then they do not deserve the credit or the pay. They are basically well trained janitors. You’re right, the city should not place such restrictions.. but sometimes you have to break the rules and sometimes you cannot perpetuate idiotic decision making.

Your statement contradicts itself a bit:

allow them to be fully trained, prepared, equipped and staffed

followed by

The city should not put restrictions on how they can or can’t help people.

Well, if they must be trained and prepared for one thing, and another thing occurs (where no training or preparation occurs) then that would be a restriction, no?

Reminds me of the old “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” (quoted from Field Marshall Helmuth Carl Bernard von Moltke)

Would you do it at the risk of becoming unable to feed your kids? Or to provide medical care to a very ill loved one?

There was a risk of their job if they disobeyed a policy. You don’t know what they risked if they lost their job.

I pray I am never put in that position, to have to make that choice. I know I’d choose my kid first, but the choice would haunt me the rest of my life.

I am ashamed. I spent 8 years as a firefighter and 3 years with a ambulance service. In 11 years of service I never worked with anyone who would have done what these idiots in Alameda did.

I went to many calls with kids drowning in back yard pools, park lakes & ponds, canals, flood control basins, seasonal creeks and rivers and even rock quarries. We were never trained in water rescue as firefighters during my time in the 80’s & 90’s. We did our best, many times we were too late to make a difference and some times we got lucky and made some good saves. The Point Is, We Always Tried, We Always Attempted a Rescue. We never stood around and waited while chiefs debated policy. I worked with many great fire captains who on occasion went against policy and did the right thing to save a life or make someones life better.

I spent many hours throwing a grappling hook into dark waters looking for those we could not save.

I am ashamed for all of us, It makes me want to spit on those that hide behind polices and excuses to make a point with someone else loved one.

Did the city council make a terrible decision to stop funding water rescue equipment and training? Absolutely they did.

Did the fire chief and his men use this as an excuse to prove a point. Absolutely they did.

Absolutely ridicules that a 16 year old kid can take a free water or pool safety class and get certified as a water life saver. While a so called “All Risk” fire rescue agency with it’s incredibly useless firefighters can stand on the shore and watch someone in shoulder deep water for over an hour until they finally drowned, likely from hypothermia.

I hope you NEVER get clinical depression which is an illness.

Wait… based on your lack of compassion I hope….. I can’t say it in this forum but your matter of fact casual response to a person in a dire life threatening situation is appalling to say the least! Are you aware that the majority of suicides are an attempt to seek help and attention and they really do NOT want to go through with it!

And YOU are the one who should be very ASHAMED for your callous attitude!

And I am ASHAMED that I live in a society where pontificating idiots like you exist!

Also I just did a quick check on and it turns out that SLOJO is related to the man who drowned in front of a large contingent of professional firefighters.

Finally, the Alameda fire department responded to a WATER rescue… if they don’t do WATER RESCUES then why respond. They should have turned around and gone back to the station to save money for the $40K in training. Instead they showed up to do nothing, got paid, watched the man drown and went home!

You need to get your money back from!!!! That’s funny though!!!!!

As a civilian, would you stand by and take note, “oh, I don’t have certification to go in the water and try and save a drowning man”. There are too many civilian “heros” out there who put the other person’s safety first without respect to themselves. I have no reservation that any of the first responders, if they had been off duty at the time, would have jumped in a saved the man. The city needs to ask themselves why have “first responders” if those who get there first can’t do anything!

…because of a lack of funding for shore-to-water rescue, firefighters had no one properly trained to go into the water.

What about those $200K/year lifeguards from Newport? Definitely a “lack of funding” I’m sure.

I have read a few other news reports of this incident including several witness accounts. As a former firefighter, I simply would have relied on common sense and under this circumstance I would have discarded policy and attempted the rescue.

An island city with 2.5 miles of public beach with no lifeguard service and a “All risk” fire department incapable and unwilling to attempt a simple water rescue, is about as stupid as stupid can get!

In todays public safety world of Safety First without exception has taken the lack of common sense to a new low.

Todays new generation of spoiled gamer boys who become firefighters primarily for the hero worship factor, pay and benefits, and their union entrenched leaders with the attitude of “pay before we play” have denuded the fire-rescue profession of courage, fortitude and common sense. Other wise known as “No Balls”

Every firefighter, past and present should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this type unforgiving childish culture to overtake a once proud and respected profession.

It is time to bring back the virtues of character , courage, fortitude, volunteerism and service back to firefighting.

I admired your character.

However, a bit of advice from someone who has been around the buoy once or twice…be careful about claiming you know what you would do in a given circumstance. It’s like throwing down the gauntlet to God, and God is very likely to put you in a situation where, the next time you encounter that given circumstance, you will have a terrible choice to make.

How pathetic this nation has become. Regardless of the victim’s motivations, it required a woman spectator to “grow a pair” and attempt to do something?

Oh, that’s right. The firefighters and cops want to make sure they’re around to collect those fat salaries and tasty pensions.

I have no words…

This is so idiotic it is beyond words.

If it was a dog, they would have pulled it out. Guaranteed.