Man Drowns in SF Bay While Firefighters, Police Watch

Budget cuts kept Raymond Zack from being rescued
By Sarah Whitmire,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2011 9:50 AM CDT
Man Dies in SF Bay While Firefighters, Police Watch
Surfers catch waves late in the day at Fort Point beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

A "major policy change" is coming to a Bay Area town after a team of firefighters watched idly as a 53-year-old man lost consciousness and drowned in the frigid waters of San Francisco Bay on Monday. KGO reports that water rescue and training were dropped from Alameda’s firefighting budget two years ago; it has since relied on the US Coast Guard for any water rescue. But Raymond Zack, who may have been suicidal, was standing up to his neck in water too shallow for a Coast Guard boat to enter. Police officers told the AP they did not have the gear needed for the 54-degree water and couldn't risk being pulled under.

So firefighters, police, and the Coast Guard stood and watched as he lost consciousness; an unidentified 20-year-old woman ultimately entered the water and retrieved Zack’s body about 150 yards from shore. "This just strikes me as not just a problem with funding, but a problem with the culture of what's going on in our city, that no one would take the time and help this drowning man," said an Alameda resident. After hearing complaints all day yesterday, land-based water rescue training was reinstated immediately. The city will spend $20,000 to $40,000 training 16 firefighters. (And yet one writer argues that the city did the right thing...)

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