OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – Emergency responders did not attempt to save a man who waded into a beach and died from hypothermia two hours later, a family claims in court.
At around 11 a.m. on Memorial Day 2011, Raymond Zack, 52, allegedly waded into Crown Memorial State Beach in Alameda, Calif., to kill himself while his family – and local authorities – watched from the shore.
Zack’s siblings filed suit Friday, claiming that Alameda police officers and firefighters watched Zack for over an hour but never attempted to enter the water.
And though the Alameda County Regional Emergency Center contacted the U.S. Coast Guard at 11:30 a.m., the Coast Guard said its boat was 40 minutes away.
“From 11:36 a.m. to 12:05 p.m., Raymond Zack continued to stand in the water, often looking back toward shore,” according to the complaint. “No member of the Alameda Police Department or Fire Department attempted to enter the water to establish contact with him. However, at least one police officer attempted to communicate with Raymond Zack by yelling at him from the shore. There is no indication Raymond Zack could hear this officer. Members of the Alameda Police Department and Fire Department told civilians to clear the beach as they mounted their rescue operations.”
The family claims Zack was standing with water up to his waist or chest at this time, roughly 50 to 150 yards from the shore.
“At around 12:05 p.m., Raymond Zack’s body became submerged in the water,” the complaint states. “Shortly thereafter, he was observed floating on the water. Still, no police officer or fire fighter entered the water. Raymond’s body continued to float in the water and gradually drifted toward shore. At around 12:27 p.m., a civilian bystander decided to enter the water to retrieve Zack’s body. Zack was brought back to the shore where efforts were made to revive him. He was subsequently pronounced dead at Alameda Hospital at 12:59 p.m.”
An amended government claim dated Dec. 7, 2011, that is attached to the complaint said “Zack died as a result of hypothermia and/or drowning.”
The lawsuit claims that the Alameda firefighters who watched Zack die had not received their rescue recertifications. The city of Alameda meanwhile did not have a shallow water rescue boat because it retired the equipment and halted the rescue swimmer program when its water rescue program was suspended in 2008, Zack’s family calims.
Though the city won approval to start the program again in 2009, recertification never took place, according to the complaint.
Zack’s brother and sister, Robert Zack and Bernice Jolliff, seek damages from the city and county of Alameda for negligence and wrongful death. San Francisco-based attorney Robert Cartwright filed the complaint Friday.
The exhibits to the complaint include a purported letter from the county’s claims administrator denying liability.
“Our investigation has revealed that Alameda County and Alameda County Fire Department were not involved in the alleged incident set forth in the above-captioned matters,” the letter states. “As such, we are formally rejecting your claim.”