Alameda Mayor Calls for Drowning Review
Update Jun 8: From the Oakland Tribune this morning:
Mayor Marie Gilmore called for an independent review Tuesday into the circumstances surrounding the death of Raymond Zack, who intentionally drowned himself on Memorial Day as police and firefighters watched from the shore. The call from Gilmore came after Acting City Manager Lisa Goldman said that 911 records and other documents detailing the emergency response would be posted on the city’s website within the next several days. “It’s extremely important that we determine what happened and when it happened,” Gilmore said. Full article
The Alameda City Council is scheduled to discuss the controversial incident in which police and fire personnel watched on shore as 52-year-old Raymond Zack committed suicide by drowning. The City Manager is scheduled to issue a report, which is No 7 on the agenda.
KTVU yesterday didn’t get anywhere trying to talk to Alameda officials about some documents concerning budget cuts to the water rescue program. (Watch the video here.)
One person KTVU talked to is David Howard, who describes himself as a citizen journalist running the web site Action Alameda News. Today the site published an interview with Alameda’s acting Deputy Fire Chief Daren Olson about the incident.
In a telephone interview with Alameda’s acting Deputy Fire Chief Daren Olson, the Deputy Chief said the Fire department’s budget cuts in no way impacted their decision to watch 52-year-old Raymond Zack drown…
“We do have money for the year 2011-2012, which was put into the budget before the incident (drowning) happened, said Deputy Fire Chief Olson.
When Deputy Fire Chief Olson was asked if this program was what prevented firefighters from entering the water he said no.
“The man was fully clothed and about 100 yards out. It was hard for us to evaluate him (Raymond Zack). We didn’t know if he was dangerous.”
On June 1, KQED freelancer Katrina Schwartz interviewed City of Alameda Interim Fire Chief Mike D’Orazi, who attempted to explain why the public safety workers on the scene declined to intervene. D’Orazi said that the department was decertified in water rescue in 2009 due to budget cuts. A 2009 department memo states that funding for re-certification and training of rescue swimmers had been approved.
“I am currently scheduling time to complete instructor training and land-based rescue training,” Division Chief Dale Vogelsang wrote. “When this training is complete, the Rescue Swimmers will be re-certified as appropriate. We anticipate training to commence within the next 30 to 45 days.” (Update 8:22 p.m On KQED Forum today, reporter Peter Hegarty of the Bay City News Group said that according to Interim Fire Chief D’Orazi, the training mentioned in the memo never occurred due to budget cuts.)Action Alameda News also tracked down another document from the city’s web site that appears to cite budgeting for water rescue. We tried to talk with Deputy Chief Olson of the Alameda Fire Department, but after two attempts the receptionist read me the following statement:
“There will be no more interviews accepted with the press nor statements made to the press regarding the drowning incident until a citywide review is completed.”
Update Jun 8: Here’s a comment we received that disputes the significance of the documents that Action Alameda has posted and KTVU reported on:
These documents don’t say what you and others claim they do. You should be aware that you are joining a political movement trying to shoehorn assumptions into this for nothing more than political retribution.
It is well known that Firefighters perform land-based water rescue all the time, the budget says nothing about assumptions of in-water rescue. The money for in-water rescue was never actually given to the fire department, the training, mentioned in the memo, was never available because the former city manager and former fire chief did not provide it.
We did try to get the Alameda Fire Department’s point of view, but they aren’t talking to anybody right now.
Meanwhile, the Alameda Police Department said it had asked the Alameda County Fire Department, Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, the Oakland fire and police departments, and the East Bay Regional Park Police District for help during the incident. But those agencies have denied receiving such a request.Related