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Seattle Fire Dept. may change procedure after failing to find victim in pool

SEATTLE — Seattle firefighters called to a drowning at a hotel pool failed to find anyone inside the water. It was nearly three hours later that the body of a 27-year-old man was found inside the same pool by a guest at the hotel.

poolman

Tesfaye Deboch

Firefighters didn’t find the victim because once they got to the pool at Quality Inn & Suites Seattle Center, none of firefighters dived into the pool.

For hours, hotel guests continued to swim in the pool with a dead body beneath.

“That is unacceptable,” said hotel guest Linda Ford.

Tesfaye Deboch had drowned, but it took a hotel guest to find his body at the bottom of the pool, about 8 feet down.  A friend initially called 911 saying Deboch was struggling in the water. Since no one saw the victim go under, however, firefighters believed the man had made it out of the pool and was somewhere inside the hotel.

“This is a learning incident,” said Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean.

On Friday, Dean released a report that consisted of an analysis of the June 30 incident.

“They thought they could see the bottom of the pool as well as everybody else that was there,” said Dean.

The report also listed specific recommendations on how firefighters could improve its standard procedure.

During the incident, firefighters only used a pole and a thermal imaging camera to sift through the water. When they found nothing, firefighters canceled the call before dive teams arrived.

“That is unfortunate,” said hotel guest Linda Ford.

Quality Inn’s pool has been shut down since that day but it’s not because of the drowning. The emergency shut off for the pool’s drain was not working and a number of other violations were discovered immediately after the drowning.

“A pool that is used in a highly populated area wouldn’t be following regulations and safety measure that’s really disturbing,” said  a hotel guest.

“It kind of makes you wonder what other kind of stuff is going on,” said Ford.

Others were in disbelief saying firefighters did not use common sense.

“Anytime there is movement in the water or something going on with the water there is masking so you may not see things,” said Dean.

It’s a lesson too little too late for the graduate student.

“We are going to look at our practices to see if there is things we can improve,” said Dean.

The Seattle Fire Department could be changing its procedure in the near future. A committee reviewing the case came up with several recommendations. For one, even if firefighters cancel a report of a drowning, a dive team will still be required to check out the scene.

Firefighters are also expected to be trained on how to best locate a victim below the surface of a pool.

Right now Seattle firefighters are not required to know how to swim, the fire chief says they will be looking into that issue to see if that needs to be changed.

3 comments

  • Joe

    "A friend initially called 911 saying Deboch was struggling in the water…" How about jump in the water and help him out…or call for help so someone is, at the VERY LEAST, watching him to see if he gets out?
    I am not a swimmer, but even I would do something other than leave to make a phone call. Besides, don't most (if not all) pools at least have that pole/hook thin to help struggling swimmers?
    Read more: http://q13fox.com/2013/08/23/seattle-fire-dept-co

  • wendy

    Well excuse me if I do not understand how you cannot see someone especially a grown man in the bottom of the pool. Damn what color is the pool waters up there. I can see the bottom of my pool night or day and yes it is 8 ft also. Yes all pools should have pole hooks good point how hard is it to toss him something to hold onto.

  • Jeff

    Yeah this is such a weird case. It's mind boggling. How can you not see a full grown black male in water?? As Joe says, why not help the guy? Bizarre. I've never seen a hotel pool so big that you would have to drag it like a lake or pond. If they could see the bottom of the pool, why drag it? That tells me they couldn't clearly see the bottom and if that's the case, they should have gone in. I guess it's moot now but dang. Weird.

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