Fire EMS, Technical Rescue

Alameda (CA) Fire Department Paramedics Cleared over Efforts in Drowning Case

Alameda (CA) Fire Department paramedics involved in the Memorial Day drowning death of an man did not act improperly, a state investigation found.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) looked into citizen complaints against four paramedics in the Alameda Fire Department who were among those at Crown Beach on May 30 when Raymond Zack, 52, waded into the bay and drowned. Dozens of police, swimmers, and firefighters witnessed the incident.

Complaints filed with the state alleged that equipment used to resuscitate Zack failed, and that paramedics should have taken Zack to a trauma or cardiac center instead of the nearest hospital. Investigators concluded that the equipment did not fail, and paramedics were correct to take Zack to the nearest hospital.

The EMSA’s jurisdiction is in the paramedics’ attempted resuscitation and the providing of patient care and is limited to actions taken after the patient was removed from the water. The EMSA did not investigate any actions taken while the man was in the water, which is where the crux of the controversy regarding this case lies, an e-mail from EMSA Deputy Director June Iljana noted.

This case has resulted in considerable scrutiny of firefighters and police officers who responded to the drowning, and news stories depicted responders as standing idly by while the victim died and citing a policy change that prevented water rescues. The fire department subsequently restarted water rescue training.

Edited for clarity on 11/23/2011.