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Lawsuit: Rescue workers stood by and watched man drown

Imagine standing on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, looking out into the water. You see someone struggling out there and you call for help. Police and firefighters respond to the call, but fail to move off the shore to rescue the person out in the water. Thirty minutes later, the person drowns. What could have been done to prevent this tragic and wrongful death?

This is the question posed in a lawsuit filed by the family of a man who drowned last year. The lawsuit is holding the city and county responsible for negligence and for failing to rescue the man who was obviously drowning.

According to documents, the man had waded out in the water about 150 yards from shore. His friend was concerned that he was trying to kill himself so he called the police. When police and firefighters arrived minutes later, though, not one of them entered the water to rescue the man.

A string of errors were made after the initial response, according to the lawsuit. Dispatchers did not contact the proper parties to enlist support and no one could figure out whether or not a Coast Guard boat could enter the shallow area. Additionally, firefighters were not certified in water rescue and had not been since 2009.

So, they stood by and watched as the man drowned in the water. Eventually, a civilian jumped into the water to retrieve the man who was pronounced dead shortly after.

By filing their lawsuit against the city and county, the victim's family hopes to prevent future accidents like this from occurring. Already, changes have been made including the purchase of two rescue boats and reinstating water rescue training for firefighters.

However, not one person was fired for the mistakes or negligence that took place on that day. Family members of people who have died due to another person's negligence have a right to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions.

Source: KTVU, "Family of man who drowned while rescuers stood by files suit against city, county," May 25, 2012

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