Report Details Ohio Firefighter's Drowning

Updated: 06-15-2007 09:48:24 AM

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A firefighter who drowned in a swollen river while trying to reach two stranded teenagers should not have attempted the rescue without a boat, a state investigator determined.

A new report was released this week concerning the drowning of a Lorain County firefighter who was trying to rescue the teens from raging waters last summer.

The report said the Wellington Fire Department should have used an inflatable boat to rescue the two teens from the floodwaters rather than allowing rescue diver Al "Buz" Anderson Jr. to enter the water.

Anderson, who was attached to a lifeline, drowned last year while trying to reach the teens.

Anderson, 47, a volunteer firefighter and a certified swift-water rescuer, was overcome by the current of the Black River. A park ranger in a boat saved the teens, who were stranded last June after abandoning their sport utility vehicle on a flooded road.

The report was done by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

It said the department did not have plans for a water rescue in that area of Wellington Township. Initial rescuers were overconfident in their abilities to handle the current and should not have gone into the water without backup, the report said.

Firefighters were hampered by their inflatable raft's lack of a motor, but they could have tethered the boat while it was in the water, the report said.

"I don't know why the boat rescue wasn't tried first," investigator James Gorman wrote in the report, which said rescuers should have entered the water without a boat only as a last resort.

The motor on the department's boat was damaged shortly before the river flooded, Wellington fire Chief Bob Walker said.

"It's not an excuse, but a fact," he said. "We have learned from this tragedy."

Walker asked the state to investigate the rescue attempt. The department will use the report to improve procedures, including training more firefighters in swift-water rescues and signing a mutual-aid agreement with the city of Elyria for water rescues, he said.