Bullock v. Gwinnett Co. (Georgia)

Author: Gerald M. Dworkin
Date: April 11, 2014


On January 09, 2010 Gwinnett County Fire Department units are dispatched for a signal 47/persons fallen through ice at a community pond behind 2825 Daniel Park Run in Dacula. The initial dispatch included E27 (Engine), M18 (Medic), B3 (Battalion Chief), MS2, SW14 (Swiftwater Team). The initial radio information indicated, “three males in the middle of the pond struggling to get out.”

Additional information received via radio while enroute to the scene indicated:
• “… pond is surrounded by several houses….”
• “…two of them look like they are going under….”
• “…in the middle of the pond…too far to get to….”
• “…one of them got out is on the ice….”
• “It is 3 kids in the lake…one got out and the other 2 are still in it.”
• “The one that got out is…staying by the hole in the water…the other two are attempting to still be able to breathe.”
• “Complainant at … called and said her hubby was going down to try and help.”
• “Advised complainant not to put anyone else in danger.”
• “Complainant advised that one has been in the water for a few minutes….”
• “The other one is still above the water….”
• “Kid under the water and they have no visual of this child…child on top of the ice…child under the water 10-7 with the child under the water….”

Additional units were dispatched due to the information from the radio included S24 (Squad), M24 (Medic) M14 (Medic), FD6, C10. Once initial units arrived on scene, additional units were then requested to include M16 (Medic), A9, PD Air 1 (Helicopter). Mutual aid was also requested from Hall County and Dekalb County Dive Teams.

The weather for January 2nd through 9th ranged between 13 degrees and 32 degrees. The ice thickness was approximately 2 – 3 inches.

The Daniel Park Pond was owned by Daniel Park Community Association. The pond is approximately 3.25 acres in surface area and has approximately 1600 feet of shoreline.

Engine 27 was first on scene at which time they observed 1 male standing on the ice near a large hole. No visual of additional victims or patients. Engine 27 persuaded the male off the ice and prevented his return to the ice. The male advised Engine 27 that his two friends had fallen through the ice. The Acting Officer on Engine 27 made the following assessment:

• Ice on the lake was too thin and weak to support an ice base rescue attempt (although the male victim was observed standing on the ice near the ice hole).
• The distance from shore was beyond the capabilities of equipment carried on a standard engine company.
• PPE capabilities limited to a couple of PFDs and nothing for a cold water rescue attempt.

The Risk/Benefit Analysis made by the Acting Officer determined:

• Any rescue attempt by Engine 27 would have placed personnel in very grave danger due to the possibility of breathing through the ice.
• The chances of a successful rescue being non-existent with the tools and equipment of first arriving crew.

Additional scene considerations included:

• Crowd control.
• Extended rescue time.
• Company 14/Swiftwater Rescue crew was tied up at the scene of a chimney fire, so their response was going to be delayed.
• Water clarity was poor at best.
• Access to open water from the shore was extremely difficult due to the ice.
• The Gwinnett County Fire Department does not have a cold water dive team.

Upon arrival of Engine 14/Swiftwater Rescue crew, a flat-bottomed boat was commandeered from a neighbor. The crew advanced their way out to the hole by cutting a channel and advancing the boat through the channel. Once they got to the last seen point, the crew probed the bottom with a pike pole and immediately recovered victim #2 (54 minutes into the call). The water depth was estimated at 8′ to 10′ deep. That boat and crew was then pulled back to shore and the patient was transferred to EMS personnel, as the boat and crew then advanced back towards the hole. Again, the bottom was probed with a pike pole and they immediately recovered victim #3 (60 minutes into the call). The boat and crew was then pulled back to shore and the patient was transferred to EMS personnel.

Outcome: Victim #1 was transported from the scene; treated for hypothermia and released. Victim #2 and Victim #3 were deceased.

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