First Responders Watch Man Die

Alleged suicide expires of hypothermia as local police, fire personnel lack training in land-based water rescue

Authorities watched a suicidal man die in the Bay near the intersection of Willow Street and Shore Line Drive Monday morning. In the hour it took the victim to die, none of the responders acted to help this man, who the coroner identified as Raymond Zack, 57, of Clinton Avenue.

According to an APD press release, dispatch received a call at 11:31 a.m. regarding a possible suicide attempt. Police and firefighters arrived at Crown Memorial Beach to see a man in his 50s neck-deep in the 54-degree water.

"The victim was six-foot-three, three hundred pounds; his going into the water was a deliberate act," said Lt. Sean Lynch, APD Investigations Division commander. "This person didn't want to be rescued, and we can't allow other people to be endangered needlessly."

Lynch said that Zack's state of mind was unknown. Witnesses on the scene reported talking to Zack, who implied he was ok and did not want assistance. Lynch said that the operation was a rescue, and while there have been times over the years when officers have gone into the water, the police department has never had land-water rescue capability.

However, AFD Interim Chief Mike D'Orazi said that, due to the suicide, the area was a crime scene, and thus under APD's jurisdiction.

AFD command staff requested additional resources from the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies. The Coast Guard dispatched a 25-foot propeller-driven rescue vessel and a helicopter. But Zack stood in water too shallow for the boat to reach. The helicopter was involved in another mission and had to return to Air Station San Francisco to refuel.

Before the chopper arrived, Zack lost consciousness and began to drift toward shore.

Due to a policy created in 2009, because AFD is not certified in land-based water rescues, no firefighter may enter the water, according to D'Orazi. However, none of the other agencies on-scene, including the Alameda County Fire Department, Oakland Fire Department, Alameda County Sheriff, Oakland Police or East Bay Regional Park Police District, were able to provide additional rescue capabilities.

The 2009 AFD policy is now changed. Entering the water will now be a decision left to the commander on scene, D'Orazi said.

An unidentified woman, who police are calling a Good Samaritan, went into the water when Zack drifted to within 50 yards of the shore. When Zack was brought in, AFD transported the victim to Alameda Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Dennis Evanosky contributed to this story.


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