Customer ServiceEMS TopicsNewsRescues

Firefighters say rules wouldn't allow them to go beyond ankle deep to reach drowning man in lake three feet deep. Inquest in UK brings out similarities to Alameda, CA case.

Click here to follow on Facebook (hit "like")

Alameda, California drowning coverage

Remember the controversy last Memorial Day weekend over the drowning in Alameda, California when firefighters weren't allowed to go into the water after Raymond Zack because of a lack of training and/or certification by the firefighters? A somewhat similar incident that happened before the Alameda drowning is making headlines in the United Kingdom as part of a coroner's inquest this week.

It happened at Walpole Park in Gosport, England last March. Forty-one-year-old Simon Burgess drowned.

Testimony indicates the firefighters who arrived to see Burgess face down in the water decided from a distance there were no signs of life and waited 11 minutes for a water rescue team. They cited health and safety rules that prevent firefighters from entering water more than ankle deep. The firefighter in charge also ordered others not to go into the water.

The news from the inquest prompted Telegraph columnist Philip Johnston to write:

How have we got to the stage where our emergency services are so straitjacketed by rules and regulations that they cannot walk into three feet of water to save a man’s life?

It would be easy to blame the fire chief for behaving like a fool, yet he was following a set of procedures that simply defy rational understanding.

Here's some of the news coverage.

From MailOnline:

A fire chief ordered a policeman and a paramedic to leave a drowning man in a 3ft deep lake 'because they thought he was already dead', an inquest heard.

Police Constable Tony Jones and paramedic Robert Wallace volunteered to jump into the lake but were given strict orders not to do so by fire station watch manager Tony Nicholls.

Adhering to force policy not to enter water more than 'half a boot' deep unless in a life-critical situation, he ordered his crew not to retrieve the body and to wait for the water rescue team, based at Fareham, which arrived at 12.31pm.

From The News:

Gosport watch manager Anthony Nicholls was the firefighter in charge.

He said: ‘At first I could not see anyone in the water and I had to ask members of the public to point him out to me.

‘There were no visible signs of life. I could only see a small part of him.

‘In my mind I’m thinking this person has been in water for maybe up to 15 minutes.

‘This was a body retrieval rather than a rescue.’


Deborah Coles, the control room manager at Hampshire Fire and Rescue, told the inquest that she took the call from Hughes at 12.17pm and, within a minute, had sent a fire appliance, a water rescue trained crew and a water support unit. She told the inquest, "The specialist teams are there to deal with water which is over half a boot in depth. At 12.20pm, the fire crew confirmed attendance and at 12.25 they told us a male was floating face down." She went on, "The water support unit arrived at 12.31pm. At 12.46, we received a message requesting our press officer attend the scene. At 12.52, an update came in saying a male had been recovered, and at 12.58 he was taken to hospital." Burgess was pronounced dead at 13.42.

From BBC News:

After the hearing, Mr Burgess's father, David, said: "We will never know if Simon could have been saved, if he had been pulled from the water as soon as the emergency services arrived on the scene or if it was already too late for him.

"When a loved one is involved in an incident like this, you can only hope that everything possible is done to save them regardless of how small the chances of success are."

Do you want to sell a rig? Click HERE to find out how with

Related Articles

Back to top button