Michael Bettis, the former Etowah County (AL) Rescue Squad, has been indicted on a charge of criminally negligent homicide in the death of member Vicky Ryan.
Ryan died during a water rescue operation on April 25. The rescue boat carrying Ryan went over a dam followed by a second rescue boat.
At the time of the incident, Bettis was being interviewed by a TV reporter. That interview was interrupted by a loud scream.
Gadsden Fire Department officials ordered the rescue squad members to stay out of the water and work only from the bank because of unsafe conditions. Neither fire department personnel nor the sheriff’s office dive team members went in the water.
The water was high, but the conditions at the location of a low-head dam also are dangerous.
It was determined the rescue mission was to become a body recovery, and Gadsden Fire Chief Stephen Carroll said the rescue squad responded.
“They were told what to do and what not do,” he said in June.
Despite the instructions, the rescue squad put two boats in the water about 5:30 p.m. One of the boats, then the other, got too close to the dam and capsized.
The Alabama Bureau of Investigation led the probe into Ryan’s death. Authorities haven’t specifically said why Bettis was indicted, but said cited this Alabama law: Alabama Code Section 13A-6-4 states: (a) A person commits the crime of criminally negligent homicide if he causes the death of another person by criminal negligence.
About two months after Ryan’s death, deputies with the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office and the county’s Emergency Management Agency seized equipment from the Etowah County Rescue Squad, driving off from the squad’s headquarters with spotlights, thermal imaging equipment and two trailers. Three members of the agency also had to turn in their deputies’ badges.