24 February 2012

Nobody saves a man drowning in a shallow pool

Firemen and police who left a man floating face down in a 3ft-deep lake because they were not trained to enter the water might have saved him had they acted sooner, an inquest heard. Simon Burgess, 41, drowned in a model boating lake after apparently suffering an epileptic seizure while feeding swans. A witness who dialled 999 described begging the first fireman on the scene to help Mr Burgess, but he refused because the water was above “ankle deep.” Instead, emergency crews waited for a specialist water rescue team to arrive, meaning that Mr Burgess was not taken out of the lake until 28 minutes after the alarm had been raised. He was declared dead in hospital...

She said she took off her boots to go in the water herself but her grandson was crying and she was unsure of the man’s state of mind, so she dialled 999. The firemen arrived with the police and I said, 'he’s only been there five or 10 minutes so if you hurry you might save him.’ He just said, 'we’re not allowed,’ and I said, 'but that’s your job.’

She added: “I believe one of the police went in to get him but was told he was not allowed. I said to one of the firemen, 'why don’t you go in?’ and he said they couldn’t if the water was higher than ankle deep. I said, 'you’re having a laugh.’ He said 'no, that’s health and safety.’..

There were no obvious signs of life so from that I made an assessment it was a body retrieval and not a rescue. The officers were trained to go into ankle deep water, which is level one, so we waited for level two officers, who can go into chest high. One of the police officers told me he would like to go in the water and I advised him in the strongest terms not to.” Mr Nicholls’s superior, Tim Spencer-Peet, said he had been happy with the watch manager’s decision-making. Coroner David Horsley recorded a verdict of accidental death.
From a story in the Telegraph.  I will defer any *#?*&! comments.

24 comments:

  1. Restraining myself from making a comment you'd need to defer.....veins popping put of head....

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  2. Sad story especially in contrast to the list of Medal of Bravery winners in Canada's National Post today:

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/02/23/someone-had-to-save-them-medal-of-bravery-honoree-rushed-into-burning-house/

    This is the story of one of the winners of the Medal of Bravery.

    On May 23, 2007, Donald Gough rescued an elderly man from a possible drowning in the Similkameen River, in Manning Park, B.C. The victim had lost control of his vehicle, which landed upside down in the middle of the river. The car suddenly flipped upright and became lodged on some rocks, allowing the victim to crawl out of his broken window and lean on the edge of the car door.

    Mr. Gough arrived and quickly took charge of the situation by directing other witnesses to different sections of the riverbank to keep the victim in sight. He drove back to his nearby office and returned with four lengths of fire hose tied together. Tying one end around his waist, Mr. Gough proceeded into the freezing water and, with great difficulty in the strong current, made his way to the barely conscious victim. Mr. Gough tied the hose around the victim’s chest, and called out to the others on shore to pull them in. In the end, Mr. Gough let go of the hose and allowed himself and the victim to be carried downstream, where they made it to shore. The hypothermic victim survived the ordeal.

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  3. A similar situation occurred here (SF Bay Area) last Memorial Day. A woman called police saying that her son had just called threatening to kill himself. After calling his mother, the man had walked into the bay until the water covered his shoulders and stood there for over an hour while police and fire fighters watched him slowly succumb to hypothermia and ultimately drown. The reason the PD and FD gave for not saving the man was that they had not been re-certified in water rescues (it should here be pointed out that the city of Alameda, where this took place, is an ISLAND)and, therefore, would leave the city open to liability if they somehow botched the rescue. They were not even allowed to retrieve the body after he died, leaving that to a layperson who volunteered to enter the water and drag the man out. The story and follow-ups can be found here: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/east_bay&id=8161285

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    1. I think your facts are slightly off, but the gist of what you're saying is true. (The civilian who pulled him out of the water did so when he was unconscious, but it wasn't clear whether he had died at that time; it was not because the police weren't allowed to recover his body after he died.)

      It was very controversial here. Local police didn't have the appropriate training and equipment to perform a rescue, and the Coast Guard was also unable to reach the man. Alameda has since reestablished water rescue training.

      It's very easy to overlook how difficult a water rescue can be, particularly if the person involved doesn't want to be rescued, as was the case in the situation in Alameda. It can be dangerous for the potential rescuers to approach a suicidal person in the water, akin to going out onto a ledge with someone who's threatening to jump.

      (I'm an Alameda resident and sometime lifeguard.)

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  4. Jerry in and around DallasFebruary 24, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    Ours is a truly ligitious society, whereas most people are afraid to commit themselves, for fear of lawsuits.

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  5. I think we should ignore Health and Safety rules - they're too risky.

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  6. I can't speak on the exact circumstances of some of these cases, but as emergency medical personnel you are trained to not threaten your own health.

    Hero stories might sound great, but you often don't hear about the failed hero stories... because the medical personnel had to take care of them also. And if you are medical personnel AND you get hurt... you just made the situation 3 times worse. You can no longer offer your help, and someone that could have been helping with the initial situation now is focusing on you. So if three people responded, there is now 1 that can actually help the original situation, depending on what happened. You might draw all the original resources towards yourself if you are more critical than the first person.

    So it may seem harsh, rude, and inhuman to sit and watch someone in trouble fade away, sometimes that's the reality of making sure that tens of thousands emergency response professionals keep themselves safe in most situations... so they are still around to help hundreds of thousands more people. And you don't even want to know what kind of decisions have to be made in a mass casualty event.

    Quick example: Car wrecks into a power pole and the wires come down touching the vehicle. Some hero-mentality volunteer firemen show up and start trying to "help" the driver. End result? 2 dead volunteers and a driver that walks away perfectly fine. What a properly trained emergency response person does? Notify dispatch and then sit and watch until the electric company turns off the power.

    So in summary, if you are emergency response and not trained to go into that water... then you don't. No reason for you to go in and drown when you were not trained to handle that situation.

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    1. None of us know the exact circumstances, and you're probably right in general.

      But, three feet of lake water? Seriously? Firemen can't handle three feet of standing water? Are there snapping turtles? What?

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    2. Well, that may be the case, but then it should be that properly trained people show up quickly. In your example, I would agree that the responders shouldn't touch the electrified car, but if the electricity isn't turned off promptly, allowing the driver to be saved, then people have a right to be upset. In this case, properly trained people never did show up, and that is an outrage.

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    3. Spot on, Morganna.

      There are a lot of assumptions going. Did they know the water was 3 ft deep at the time? And the biggest problem is why did it take so long for the proper personnel to arrive?

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    4. Dinepo, I believe they probably DID know the lake was only 3ft deep, as it was a manmade lake for model boats. I just can't believe nobody else on the scene ran out to pick him up.

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    5. Dinepo I think you are more than just a little off with your statements.

      There is a huge difference in going in to a situation like an idiot and getting yourself hurt (which like you said, only makes it worse) and standing by, hiding cowardice behind "the rules" or, not having the courage to say forget the rules.

      I know that, like you said, sometimes people jump into a situation and make it worse. However an intelligent and competent person would be able to see the power lines (in the example you used) and go about helping in a different way.

      You present a false dichotomy of doing everything, every time to the letter of bureaucratic regulations (mainly instituted to avoid a lawsuit) or going in by the seat of your pants ignorantly putting yourself at danger.

      By your sentiment no one should ever offer any aid unless they are trained. I completely disagree with your opinion that only trained people can pull something off safely.

      Granted, I live in a rural area where the average person is more capable, and most of the emergency personnel are fools, but twice in my life I have went in to help people when the "emergency responders" sat about worrying about regulations, or setting up a "mobile command center" (read coffee station) -E

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  7. It's better to be a failed hero than a successful coward.

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    1. Well said. It is shocking that something like that would happen... O.o

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  8. Where is the common sense and human decency. I just don't understand. "I can't save that child from a cat mauling, i wasn't trained at cat level that's level two." I'm really fed up with the utter idiocy of it all. Same thing with the Tennessee fire fighters.

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    1. "It don't make no sense that common sense,
      It don't make no sense no more".

      - John Prine

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  9. I'm surprised to see this happen again - there was a similar incident a year or two ago and in the aftermath it was repeatedly stated by the emergency services that though the rules were there for safety they also had to be taken with a good dollop of common sense and not applied over-zealously, particularly in situations where a life would be at risk.

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    1. Very well said skip!
      -E

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  10. I was a rescue specialist/diver for the Canadian Coast Guard. while I understand that rescue personal have to exercise caution in a rescue, this is stunningly stupid adherence to the rules. You are supposed to exercise judgement based on your knowledge, risk factors and training. There was many times we bent the rules as the risks were manageable and the the reward was worth it. There was a few times we had to say no because it was very likely that we would have died trying to recover a body. sometimes we did extra because the family was there, such as CPR on someone with zero chance, because the wife and kids were looking on and you need to let them feel all was done that could have been.
    I did bluntly tell one guy that was going into a confined space full of fumes that he was about to die alone as I would not be coming to get him, thankfully I was able to stop him from killing himself by climbing in.
    Sometimes you need to stop and assess the scene, ask yourself why is that person laying there? are they in a puddle full of electrified water? or in a pocket of deadly gases? It's not easy to do nothing for most trained people.

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  11. I live in South Florida where there are lots of canals and man made lakes. Almost daily you hear of someone driving their car into one of these bodies of water. Most of the time it is the civilian onlookers who jump in to try to help these drivers. There have even been teenagers who have jumped into canals to save toddlers who have fallen in. If these people waited for police or firemen to arrive, it might be too late. But I don't think I can remember any specific cases of fire or police arriving and then not doing anything.

    I realize that some situations preclude immediate help to victims because of dangerous conditions, but a three foot deep model boat lake? My pool's shallow end is three feet deep! I just don't think I could stand by and watch this happen. I just can't imagine standing there and watching someone die and then living with myself afterward. What were they afraid of? A riptide? The Loch Ness monster? Sharks?

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  12. I couldn't stop thinking about this. I'm a little over 5'6" and took a yardstick to measure where 3 feet of water would actually be on my torso and it just comes to my hip bone. So unless these police were less than 5'6", that water wasn't even waist deep. ARGH!!!

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  13. Soft, embarrassingly soft

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  14. SAD, SAD, State of human affairs.....A suicide attempt made in a public place is usually a last cry for help.
    Don't be afraid, jump in, on or what ever it takes to answer the cry for help!

    come on people, we save animals, trees, fields and streams without consent, are you kidding me!

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