Budget Cuts Force Alameda, California Police & Firefighters to Watch Raymond Zack Drown Himself
Alameda, California, a suburb of Oakland and San Francisco, is an island city. As such, it is surrounded on all sides by water. Yet when a suicidal man waded out into the San Francisco Bay from the city’s Crown Beach on Monday, police and firefighters lacked the necessary resources to save him. They, along with scores of bystanders, stood by and watched as the man, 53-year-old Raymond Zack, succumbed to the frigid waters of the San Francisco Bay and drowned.
According to KGO-7, authorities had no choice but to let the man die. The Alameda Fire Department claims that budget cuts have prevented it from re-certifying personnel in land-based water rescues. Without that certification, the city is unprotected against any potential lawsuits. So it could be said that in addition to budget cuts, America’s overly litigious society killed Raymond Zack.
Or perhaps all the people who just stood there and watched are to blame.
“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 told KGO-7.
The water where the man was standing, some 150 yards (137 meters) off shore, was too shallow for a Coast Guard rescue boat, and a helicopter was unavailable.
“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 told KGO-7.
After Zack died, firefighters couldn’t even go into the water to retrieve his body. A young woman volunteered to do that.
“It’s horrible,” witness Gary Barlow told KGO-7. “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 whole mess started when Zack’s mother called Alameda police to inform them that he was going to try to kill himself. Shortly thereafter, he waded out into the chilly bay waters off Crown Beach. For more than an hour he stood there and looked back at everyone looking at him. One can only wonder what he was thinking regarding why police and firefighters were just standing on the shore and watching without attempting to rescue him.
Alameda Fire Division Chief Ricci Zombeck told KGO-7 that if he was off duty things would have been different. “Well, if I was off duty I would know what I would do, but I think you’re asking me my on-duty response and I would have to stay within our policies and procedures because that’s what’s required by our department to do,” he said when asked if he would go into the water to save a drowning child.
Alameda fire officials told KGO-7 that they will have “a serious discussion” as to why an island city lacks sufficient resources to rescue people in danger in the water.
Tagged alameda california, alameda fire department, alameda police department, budget cuts force police and firefighters to watch man drown, california budget cuts, coast guard, crown beach alameda, firemen watch as man drowns, joe mcniff, police watch as man drowns, raymond zack, raymond zack drowning, ricci zombeck, san francisco bay