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Drowned Man's Family Files Negligence Claims Against Alameda

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The family of a man who drowned off Crown Beach on Memorial Day as police and firefighters watched from the shore have filed claims against the city and county of Alameda, saying first responders were negligent because they should have done more to help him.

The claims, which were filed Thursday, come just two days after the Alameda City Council reviewed the death of the 52-year-old Raymond Zack and steps that police and firefighters are taking to address public criticism for how they responded to the emergency.

Bernice Jolliff, Zack's sister, and Robert Zack, his brother, are seeking unspecified damages against both the city and county of Alameda, according to the claims.

Zack, who reportedly suffered from mental illness, waded into San Francisco Bay before dozens of onlookers and slowly walked farther and farther from shore until he eventually succumbed in the chilly waters.

After his death, firefighters said they did not enter the water to help him because they were not certified in land-water rescue and did not have a boat that could maneuver in the shallow waters. Police said they did not go in because Zack was suicidal and possibly violent.

Officers and firefighters at the scene, however, did attempt to secure rescue boats, including from the U.S. Coast Guard.

A passer-by eventually pulled Zack back into shore after he began floating face down.

According to the claims filed by San Francisco attorney Robert Cartwright Jr., first responders "breached their mandatory duty and a duty of ordinary care" by not doing more to help Zack.

Among the ways that officers and firefighters were negligent, the claim says, is by not entering the water after Zack or having proper rescue equipment, and not having crews properly trained.

Since Zack's death, 21 Alameda firefighters have undergone training as rescue swimmers and two shallow water rescue boats are in service.

The department also has successfully carried out four water-based rescues since the drowning, according to interim Fire Chief Mike D'Orazi.

Police and firefighters are launching other changes to address the public criticism of the departments after the drowning, officials told the Alameda City Council Tuesday.

The council will get a progress update in February.



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