Friday, 3 June 2011
Our Inaugural WTF Story: Police and Fire Crews Watch Man Drown
A suicidal man was seen entering the San Francisco Bay on Monday looking back periodically at the crowd that had formed to watch. He continued to wade in till the water was up to his neck and waited. "The next thing he was floating face down" commented an onlooker "We expected to see at some point that there would be a concern for him".
The man was Fifty year old Raymond Zack who spent almost an hour in the water before drowning in front of an estimated crowd of 75 on lookers including Fire and Police personnel. His Stepmother who rushed to the scene fearing for his safety said she cannot understand why no one attempted to save her stepson. "They were there two hours," Dolores Berry, 84, said about the emergency personnel. "Two long hours. There were kids playing and police and firefighters standing around. Nobody did a thing."
The first time I heard about this story I was sure it must have been some urban legend, something I would go to Snopes and find out had suckered in people for years. Surely there is no way a crown of onlookers would just stand and watch a man drown for that long. Unfortunately I was wrong.
There are many local media reports of the incident and when asked about the incident the Alemeda Fire Department cited that due to budget cuts in 2009 Fire crews lacked the training and gear to enter the water. A coast guard boat was dispatched but the water was too shallow for the boat to enter. "The incident yesterday was deeply regrettable," D'Orazi said Tuesday. "But I can also see it from our firefighters' perspective. They're standing there wanting to do something, but they are handcuffed by policy at that point." The Alameda Police department commented via Lt Sean Lynch "He was engaged in a deliberate act of taking his own life," Lynch told the Mercury News. "We did not know whether he was violent, whether drugs were involved. It's not a situation of a typical rescue."
There was no word as to the dangers the water in this area may entail but I think that if the man was in the water for such a considerable amount of time that something could have been done.
Some good has come of this tragic event though. In a City Council hearing Tuesday the city said it would spend up to $40,000 to certify 16 firefighters in land-based water rescues.