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Volunteer fire fighter drowns after being thrown from his swiftwater rescue boat - West Virginia.

Tarley J
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE F2010-09, 2011 Jan; :1-11
On March 13, 2010, at approximately 0615 hours, a 32-year-old volunteer fire fighter drowned after being thrown from a boat when it crashed into a bridge and capsized. The fire fighter was part of a swiftwater rescue team which included his captain and his chief. The chief was operating the boat as the crew attempted to make a fourth trip upstream to rescue civilians who were trapped by fast rising flood waters. The crew was navigating up an eddy created from the water flooding a street when the motor struck something under the water and diverted them out into the main current. The chief could not steer the motor, nor did it react when he put it into reverse. The boat slammed into a concrete bridge. The back of the boat was immediately pushed down into the water and the bow of the boat flipped up and over the stern throwing all three fire fighters into the frigid water. Two of the fire fighters were able to escape the hydraulics created from the flood water rushing against the arched concrete stanchion on the side of the bridge. The victim was recovered six days later approximately 4 miles from where the boat had capsized. Contributing Factors: 1. Insufficient risk assessment analysis; 2. Personal protective ensemble not appropriate for cold water or flood conditions. Key Recommendations: 1. Ensure that fire fighters wear the appropriate PPE for the environment encountered. Additionally, authorities having jurisdiction should conduct a hazard and risk assessment analysis of their response areas to determine what resources are needed to conduct technical search and rescue at swiftwater incidents.
Region-3; Fire-fighters; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Safety-practices; Work-practices; Emergency-responders; Rescue-workers; Training; Risk-analysis; Personal-protective-equipment; Personal-protection; Cold-environments; Cold-weather-operations; Environmental-exposure; Environmental-hazards; Surveillance
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
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Identifying No.
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Priority Area
Services: Public Safety
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Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division