This is what our litigious, bureaucratized society has come to….
Alameda is a small island city across the bay from San Francisco. Last Memorial Day, a man walked into the 60° water off Crown Beach, intent on committing suicide by drowning himself. A crowd of about 75 gathered, including police and firemen, and just watched the man slowly die and eventually go under the water.
The public employees say due to budget cuts, they haven’t been certified in water rescue and would risk lawsuits if they had tried to save the man.
Alan Wang of ABC7 reports, May 30, 2011, that Alameda police received a call shortly before noon on Monday from a woman saying her son wanted to kill himself. Raymond Zack, 53, then walked out into the water off Crown Beach. For more than an hour, Zack stood up to his neck in the frigid surf. But Alameda police and firefighters stood by and watched as the man drowned.
About 75 beachgoers could not understand why Alameda police officers and firefighters stood idly by and watched the man slowly succumb to the 60 degree water.
“I thought it was kind of weird that they weren’t going out to bring the guy in, you know, he was out there, his head was above water, he was looking at everybody, there was plenty of time for them to react,” witness Perry Smith said.
“Well, we expected to see at some point that there would be a concern for him and somebody would go out there and pull him in,” witness Gary Barlow said. “It’s horrible. How can we let that happen? How can our emergency personnel allow that to happen? I don’t get it, I don’t understand it.”
The man was a 150 yards out; it was too shallow for a Coast Guard boat and its helicopter was on another call. It arrived too late.
Authorities say they had no choice but to stand on the shoreline. “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.
The Alameda Fire Department says budget constraints are preventing it from recertifying its firefighters in land-based water rescues. Without it, the city would be open to liability.
Alameda firefighters could not even go into the water to get the body, so they waited until a woman in her 20s volunteered to bring the body back to the beach.
Alas, it turns out that Alameda city had budgeted for eight water rescues.
The city council got an earful from angry citizens; the mayor is calling for an independent investigation; and Alameda Fire Chief Michael D’Orazi, after announcing he would no longer answer questions from reporters, is nowhere to be seen.
Meanwhile, Raymond Zack is still dead.
Go here to watch the news video.