The family of Raymond Zack who drowned himself by walking into the San Francisco Bay while Police and firefighting personnel watched, filed a civil claim against Alameda City and County stating that first responders were negligent and “breached their mandatory duty and a duty of ordinary care”. The claim is a necessary step to filing a lawsuit.
Zack, 52, was mentally ill and suicidal when he waded into the cold waters near Bay Crown Beach on May 30, 2011, Memorial Day. Dozens of onlookers, including police and firefighters, remained on the shoreline and watched for nearly an hour until Zack succumbed. His body was pulled ashore by a civilian passerby.
The firefighters were prohibited by policy from entering the water, following budget cuts that eliminated their water rescue program. Police and fire officials were waiting for the Coast Guard to arrive. The circumstances were heavily debated here in June in a number of different posts. Here’s one and here’s another.
On the whole, first responders bore the brunt of the public criticism with surprisingly little criticism of the financial aspect of the decision to eliminate the water rescue program. Following the incident City Police and Fire department launched a series of changes. An independent inquiry was ordered by the city, and the report submitted by former State Fire Marshal Ruben Grijalva outlined suggestions for improved coordination between departments and training for fire and police department personnel. It is reported that 21 Alameda firefighters have undergone training as rescue swimmers and two shallow water rescue boats are in service.