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Thread: Dive Training Accident Claims Pennsylvania Firefighter

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    Dive Training Accident Claims Pennsylvania Firefighter

    Dive Training Accident Claims Pennsylvania Firefighter

    Firehouse.Com News

    The Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania Volunteer Fire Company No. 3 is reporting the death of one of their firefighters in a dive training accident.

    Michael Switala, 50, a member of Station 69 and Water Rescue 68, died August 28 as a result of an accident the day before.

    Initial reports are that the deceased and his partner made their third training dive, a night diving exercise at a lake near Slippery Rock when the accident occurred at approximately 17 feet. The partner signed to Switala that he was OK and Switala responded back the same, then signed to surface and OK. The partner surfaced and did the usual "locate" his position and to look for his partner (Switala).

    He could not locate Switala so he dove back down and found Switala with his regulator out of his mouth and in a flexing/seizure body position. The partner made several attempts to reinsert the regulator into Switala's mouth as well as the backup regulator with no success. Both surfaced and the partner summoned help (team members and PADI instructor). They performed CPR and transported. Switala died Sunday at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh. The Allegheny County coroner ruled the death an accidental drowning.

    Firefighter Switala was an 18-year member of the department having served in several different offices within the organization. He is survived by his wife Aimee, daughter Heather, 26, and two sons, Marine Lance Corporal Aaron Switala, age 24 and Matt, age 19.

    Arrangements are being handled by Frank Gigler Funeral Home, 2877 Leechburg Road, Lower Burrell. A casket-side service will be held on Thursday evening, followed by a full honors funeral on Friday morning.

    Arrangements and visitation times are as follows:

    Firefighter

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    Scuba diver drowns during PADI night diving specialty course

    Powered by CDNN - CYBER DIVER News Network

    FREEPORT, Pennsylvania (29 Aug 2005) -- A diver with Lower Burrell Volunteer Fire Department No. 3 died Sunday as a result of a diving accident in the line of duty Saturday, Fire Chief Mark Marmo said in a release.

    Michael Switala, 50, of Oregon Drive in Lower Burrell was an 18-year member of the department, having served in several offices within the organization, Marmo said.

    Switala died as a result of accidental drowning in Lawrence County, the Allegheny County coroner's office said Sunday night.

    Scott Camerlo of Scott's Scuba in Freeport said Switala was participating in a night diving exercise at a lake near Slippery Rock when the accident occurred.

    "It appears to have been some type of medical condition that caused him to go unconscious under water," Camerlo said.

    Switala's diving buddy during the exercise saw that Switala's mouthpiece to his air tanks was out of his mouth and that Switala appeared to be unconscious, Camerlo said.

    The diving buddy brought Switala to the surface where Camerlo and three others in the diving group performed CPR until emergency medical workers arrived, Camerlo said.

    Switala was first taken to United Community Hospital in nearby Grove City, then transferred to UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh, Camerlo said.

    He said Switala was a member of a specialty diving course offered by Scott's Scuba. Camerlo is a master diving instructor and a U.S. Coast Guard master captain.

    A firefighter at the Lower Burrell No. 3 said Marmo was unavailable for comment and more details about Switala's death would be released as they became available.

    Switala is survived by his wife, Aimee, daughter Heather and two sons, Marine Lance Cpl. Aaron Switala and Matt Switala.

    Funeral arrangements are incomplete. A memorial fund is being established to aid the family, according to the release.

    http://www.cdnn.info/news/safety/s050829a.html

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    Firefighter diver died 'doing what he loved'

    By Chuck Biedka
    TRIBUNE-REVIEW NEWS SERVICE
    Tuesday, August 30, 2005

    Michael Switala was excited two weeks ago when he was able to dive to 90 feet.

    "It was only for about 15 minutes, but it was like a 'new car' experience for him," said friend and fellow firefighter diver Randi Shank.

    Switala's deep dive duration was short because of the decompression needed. Firefighter divers will only go to 100 feet deep if they have the added training. Special gas and air mixtures are needed for deeper dives.

    Switala, 50, of Lower Burrell, died Sunday after a training dive Saturday in a lake near Slippery Rock, Lawrence County.

    Switala was an 18-year veteran firefighter and dive rescue team member who continued to improve his skills as a diver, his friends said.

    "He loved the fire department, community service and diving," said Scott Camerlo, of Scott's Scuba in Freeport.

    Switala was known for his compassion, and he showed it even in death: he was an organ donor.

    "Mike was a genuine person. He was easy to talk to," said friend and Lower Burrell No. 3 Fire Chief Mark Marmo. "You could sit and talk with him, and he was well-versed on many topics."

    Switala, who was a Navy veteran, was a certified emergency medical technician, firefighter, rescue diver and devoted family man, Marmo said.

    Switala was a man who didn't get excited during emergencies and his self-control helped to calm younger firefighters and divers, Marmo said.

    Switala worked at Allegheny Ludlum until he was laid off. Since then, he was self-employed doing mortgage closings, according to Shank said.

    Shank said that the Saturday night training session was going routinely.

    "He was communicating well with his diving buddy," Shank said. "Everything appeared normal."

    When Switala didn't return to the surface with his buddy, that driver immediately went back down and found Switala with his mouthpiece hanging away from his mouth, said Camerlo, a master instructor who supervised the dive.

    The buddy diver tried to put the mouthpiece back in, but when Switala didn't respond, the driver grabbed him and raced to the surface, Camerlo said.

    Camerlo said CPR was being performed within three minutes of when he surfaced and an ambulance was there in three minutes.

    The Allegheny County Coroner's Office performed an autopsy and ruled that Switala accidentally drowned. No other findings were made, a deputy coroner said.

    Camerlo said nighttime diving is something that emergency divers want to know how to do to better serve the public.

    In his obituary, Switala's family noted, "He died doing what he loved to do."

    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/trib.../s_368864.html

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    Switala, Michael

    Age: 50
    Cause of Death: Unknown
    Rank: Firefighter
    Nature of Death: Unknown
    Classification: Volunteer
    Emergency Duty: No

    Incident Date: 08/27/2005
    Duty Type: Training
    Incident Time:
    Activity Type: Other
    Death Date: 08/28/2005
    Fixed Prop. Use: Outdoor Property

    Fire Dept. Info:
    Lower Burrell Volunteer Fire Department
    3255 Leechburg Road
    Lower Burrell , Pennsylvania 15068
    Chief: Mark Marmo

    Initial Summary:
    Firefighter Switala was participating in his third night dive training exercise for PADI recertification when he suffered an unknown medical emergency. He was rendered unconscious. His dive buddy found him unresponsive and brought him to the surface. Care was initiated and he was transported to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries on August 28, 2005.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    Pending

    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application...eath_year=2005

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