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Rescue Boats Stood Ready, but Alameda Never Requested Them

According to the Alameda County Fire Department, County rescue boats stand ready in San Leandro, but contrary to an Alameda Police Department press release earlier this week, Alameda public safety officials never asked for them to be dispatched in response to the successful apparent suicide attempt by Raymond Zack at Robert Crown Memorial Beach on Monday. Zack died after wading into, and standing for over an hour in, the cold Bay waters off Crown Memorial Beach.

A press release from the Alameda Police Department on Tuesday stated:

“Other agencies contacted for assistance with the water rescue included the Alameda County Fire Department, Oakland Fire Department, Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, the Oakland Police Department, and the East Bay Regional Park Police District. These agencies were unable to provide any additional rescue capabilities.”

However, a June 1 release from Alameda County Fire Department (ACFD) Chief Shelden Gilbert stated that Alameda authorities never asked the county fire department to respond. In the release, Chief Gilbert stated:

Based on the types of questions and comments we have received, I would like to clarify the following:

  • The ACFD was not requested by the Alameda Fire Department to respond to the drowning incident at Crown Beach in Alameda on Monday, May 30, 2011.
  • The ACFD has a well-equipped and staffed water rescue program. There are currently two trailered, response ready rigid hull rescue boats in service in San Leandro, one at Station 11 at 14903 Catalina and one at Station 10 at 2194 Williams. Both rescue boats are equipped with state-of-the-art navigation, communication and rescue equipment. Personnel assigned to these stations are trained regularly and are capable of providing water rescue services to the Marina and the bay at large. In addition, the ACFD has two smaller rescue inflatable boats that can also be dispatched to the Marina and bay. Traditionally, a water rescue response at the Marina and/or the bay includes two engines, two rescue boats and a Battalion Chief at minimum.

Dave Lord, Deputy Chief of the Alameda County Fire Department told Action Alameda News that during the first call from the Alameda Police Department, Alameda police asked the County to dispatch Alameda Fire Department boats located in Alameda. The Alameda Fire Department boats – one for fire fighting, one for rescue – have been out of service for over two years. (The Alameda County Fire Department dispatch unit handles the dispatch of all firefighter equipment in Alameda County.) The County dispatcher advised Alameda police that the Alameda-based boats were not in service, but that there was a boat in San Leandro; Alameda police did not request this boat to be dispatched to Crown beach.

In a second call, Alameda police asked if the San Leandro boat was on the water, and the response was “no.” Again, Alameda police did not request the boat to be dispatched. On one of these calls, Alameda police also confirmed with the County dispatch center that the United States Coast Guard had been called.

Lord explained that the County dispatch center cannot dispatch equipment without a specific request – to do so might make unavailable equipment needed for another call when it hasn’t been explicitly requested. He also said that the County publishes a list of available equipment countywide each day at 10:00 a.m.

Action Alameda News made a request to Acting City Manager Lisa Goldman to get clarification on the discrepancy between the City and County press releases and for a copy of call logs or other evidence that Alameda public safety officials requested assistance from the Alameda County Fire Department. With that request, we forwarded a copy of the Alameda County Fire Department press release. As of press time, she had not responded. However, after that request was made, Deputy Chief Lord called Action Alameda News back to say that Alameda police had contacted him to say that they have realized that their press release was in error, and acknowledge that they never requested assistance from the County, and that they would be calling the media to make a correction.

As of press time, Action Alameda News had not heard from Alameda police regarding a correction to their original release.

13 comments to Rescue Boats Stood Ready, but Alameda Never Requested Them

  • […] Rescue Boats Stood Ready, but Alameda NEVER REQUESTED THEM.  << click to see full article at Action Alameda News. […]

  • anon

    So like APD and FPD don’t have the telephone numbers of the other surrounding fire and police departments with whom they have formal “Mutual Aid” agreements? Quick somebody add the numbers to the direct dial numbers on their phones before someone else dies.

    So why was Russo – a never before City Manager hired as Alameda’s new City Manger with a 5 year contract?
    Because no real experienced City Manager was stupid enough to wade in and try to help our City. Now we all know why. When he gets in b.s. up to his chest, the staff will just walk away from the sidelines and drive back to Brentwood. And the Mayor will demand an investigation as why everyone is so undertrained, inexperienced and inhumane on her watch. Oh and I forgot, overpaid.

  • Bobbi Vogel

    As an ex paramedic, I am disgusted… a human being, knowing other non public servants stood by and watched this happen is heart breaking….it would not have taken boats etc etc from anywhere, it would have taken ONE SINGLE person caring enough about another human being to wade out into the water and bring the guy in. Sign of the times…well done.

  • Liz Williams

    Bobbi, I’m with you and I’m not. This was a 5150 call (mentally unstable), meaning it required staging by the police. As you’re an ex-paramedic, I’m sure you know what that means. For us civilians, it means the police needed to secure the scene for the public’s protection because the victim was considered unstable. This means that the non=-professional bystander would have had to have the guts to defy the police and fire personnel, which I think is a lot to ask.

    Of course, it was a bystander who pulled him out of the water when he floated closer in – a young nurse in her 20s. You read that right – a young woman did what the burly firefighters would not, even after Zack was clearly not a threat.

    The authorities came in, established a perimeter and proceeded to make one bad judgment call after another, failing for an hour to get proper rescue equipment form the county which was nearby. This failure to get adequate help resulted in a man both confused and suffering from depression to die needlessly.

    I find it virtually impossible to process that firefighters could fail us in this way, but that is what happened.
    A nauseating, shameful failure to live up to the job they are hired to do.

  • Vania

    A contrarian thought: Under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, one has the right to be free from Federal and local government agencies imposing “other people’s religions” on you. In short, you have a right to be free from religious tenets of other people’s religion.

    One of the principal ways “other people’s religions” still creep into state law are the religion-based principles that (1) suicide is illegal, (2) only “crazy or depressed” people try to commit suicide, and (3) if one is in serious, permanent pain, one nevertheless does not have the right to die with dignity, like one does to some extent in Oregon, Washington and Montana.

    I feel very sorry for this poor Mr. Zack, who apparently wanted to die, for reasons undisclosed. I feel sorry that he could not die in the comfort of his own bed, when he chose to do so.

    Rather than criticizing Alameda’s police and law enforcement agencies, a contrarian view is that they got it at least half way right, in respecting Mr. Zack’s right to die, albeit in the literally cold, unpleasant way California law forced him to so.

  • Barb

    Great comments Vania. But it had nothing to do with right to die, it had to do with, Gee what does the rule book say?

  • I don’t think he wanted to die, I think it was a cry for help, and the people he looked to for that help failed him.

  • He may well have the right to kill himself – but does he have the right to do it in public, in front of all those people whom it upset? And does he have the right to drag all those people – 75 to 100 bystanders, 9 or so firefighters, some police officers – into his personal despair? If it is his right to kill himself, isn’t he also obligated to do it far away from others? And conversely, if he tries to drag so many other people into it, doesn’t that weaken said right to kill self? Is there a difference between suicides behind closed doors, or with Jack Kevorkian, and suicides on a public beach, with witnesses and bystanders?

    Not one person we’ve heard from cited religious grounds for their outrage. Rather, they cited general moral and human outrage at the authorities for not trying to bring him back in and get him some psychiatric help.

  • Anon

    Does this mean our illustrious council will name a street after him?

  • joel

    Excuse me Vania
    it is very much a police and fire dept affair when anyone try to end their life in public if it was so for the few the CHP and Bridge workers stopped from jumping of the Golden gate Bridge all ended up in the hospital mental ward for a minimum of 15 days , if you walk in the street today saying you are going to end your life you will end up there too.
    Fact is they did not want to get their uniform wet , hiding behind a presumably policy which has yet to be proven.that is betray at the highest point.

  • joel


  • Captain Jim

    From what I have read it appears to be a communication issue with the first on scene police units not having updated current information to respond the approprioate water rescue units from the county. Request for defunct rescue units out of service for 2 years led to the confusion with dispatch. As far a one person pulling a mentally deranged person out of the water ,all rescues are determined by risk benefit anaylisis. 2 people drowning may not be the answer. Communication and timeline between agencies as to when and if water rescue boats or crews were deployed appear to be the issue. After 25 years in the fire service dont quarterback if you were not there.

  • joel

    Dear Captain Jim:
    No one is doing the quarter back here , we are all and so shopuld you , assuming you are a humasn beeing , insulted by the approach of the AFD , they brought it upon themselves not us they had a choice yank the harmless guy suicidal in hypothermia shock out of the water or watch him slowly die in the water , in any civilised country disciplinasry actions would have been taken against all official involved in some each and every bystander would face criminal charges for not assisting someone in danger .
    As far as Firefighter being a dangerous job , sales rep , fisherrman , roofers , lumberjack and a scores of profession are far more dangerous than their jobs none of them get lifetime benefit .
    What happen that day is shamefull, beside this so call no water entry was an internal memo , if youn are leaving on an Island , you are a paramedic a fitrefighter as police officer it is your MORAL duty to assist . this is nor quarter backing , by the way how is your pension because I paid for it …./..

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