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Thread: Washington Firefighter Injured in Training Exercise

  1. #1
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
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    Jan 2002

    Washington Firefighter Injured in Training Exercise

    Washington Firefighter Injured in Training Exercise

    Courtesy of The Daily World

    A 40-year-old Ocean Shores Fire Department captain working to get an advanced certification for the city's surf rescue team is in critical condition at a Seattle hospital this morning after being pitched into the surf when his personal watercraft capsized Monday afternoon.

    Capt. Rob McLaughlin, who joined the Ocean Shores Police Surf Rescue Team last July, was a passenger on the watercraft that was maneuvering through the surf line just north of Ocean Shores, Police Lt. Russ Fitts said.

    Firefighter/paramedic Curt Begley, who is also new to the rescue team and working to get his personal watercraft certification, was the driver.

    "We purposely, at times, dump vessels out in the water so we can get back on them, but in this case they hit a wave wrong and it capsized the vessel," Fitts said.

    Begley was able to get back on the watercraft, but McLaughlin became separated. Police Sgt. Paul Luck, a senior team member and instructor, was about 50 yards away on his own personal watercraft and attempted to pick up McLaughlin. Breaking surf conditions prevented Luck from getting to McLaughlin right away.

    When McLaughlin became unresponsive, Luck jumped in the ocean and signaled to the on-shore observer that he needed help. McLaughlin, who was in the water for about 10 minutes, was stabilized and carried to shore. He was rushed to Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Aberdeen and airlifted to Seattle’s Virginia Mason Hospital.

    "He had no external injuries from the incident," Fitts said, adding that it's unknown if a medical condition was a contributing factor. "We're not exactly sure what happened with him. ... There is a lot of stress put on the body with the surf conditions, water conditions and temperature. I'm sure everything comes into play."

    The Grays Harbor Sheriff's Office is investigating because the accident happened in the county's jurisdiction, Undersheriff Rick Scott said.

    "We're trying to get together with all the officers involved to get a clearer picture" of what happened, Scott said.

    The state Department of Labor & Industries is also expected to investigate, Fitts said.

    As part of the personal watercraft certification, team members learn how to recognize and avoid waves, and pick up and drop off swimmers in the surf line. The men were about 100 yards off shore.

    McLaughlin is one of three Ocean Shores Fire Department personnel on the 12-member Police Surf Rescue Team, which was formed in 1989. He is qualified as a rescue swimmer, the basic level of training for a surf rescue team member, Fitts said.

    McLaughlin, who started as a volunteer firefighter in Ocean Shores, was hired at the department in October of 1996.

    Through 2004, the surf rescue team had responded to 162 calls and made 87 rescues. Nine people have drowned, including three in 2002. The team's average response time is 3.7 minutes.

    Eight years ago, Ocean Shores Police Lt. Jim Davis drowned during a surf rescue mission with the team when the inflatable boat he was in overturned.

    Both Luck and Fitts were on the rescue operation with Davis.

    "To have someone get injured is tough," Fitts said. "We accept that with the territory. It's a precarious situation we put ourselves in to kind of familiarize, get comfortable and know our limitations.

    "It's something we'll look back on."

  2. #2
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
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    Jan 2002
    McLaughlin, Rob

    Age: 40
    Cause of Death: Caught or Trapped
    Rank: Captain
    Nature of Death: Drowning
    Classification: Career
    Emergency Duty: No

    Incident Date: 03/20/2006
    Duty Type: Training
    Incident Time: 15:30
    Activity Type: Other
    Death Date: 03/22/2006
    Fixed Prop. Use: Outdoor Property

    Fire Dept. Info:
    Ocean Shores Fire Department
    676 Point Brown Avenue, NE
    PO Box 100
    Ocean Shores , Washington 98569
    Chief: Jim Hodges

    Initial Summary:
    Captain McLaughlin was participating in surf rescue training when the watercraft he was in capsized. He became caught in rough surf conditions. Once rescuers could reach him safely, he was found to be unresponsive. Care was initiated in the water and then he was brought to shore. He was transported to the hospital where he remained until he succumbed to his injuries (drowning). Funeral Arrangements: 03/29/2006 @ 1400hrs, Ocean Shores Convention Center, Ocean Shores, WA 98569

    Memorial Fund Info:
    A memorial fund account has been established in the name of Captain Rob McLaughlin at Twin County Credit Union, 900 Point Brown Ave., NE, Ocean Shores, WA 98569; Tele. (800) 258-3115 ext. 6664

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