St. Johns County, FL, Fire Rescue (SJCFR) was presented with challenges it never faced before. An overloaded 22-foot Crownline Bowrider with 14 people on board rammed a moored, unoccupied tugboat on the Intracoastal Waterway about one mile north of the Palm Valley Bridge, approximately 25 miles...
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St. Johns County, FL, Fire Rescue (SJCFR) was presented with challenges it never faced before. An overloaded 22-foot Crownline Bowrider with 14 people on board rammed a moored, unoccupied tugboat on the Intracoastal Waterway about one mile north of the Palm Valley Bridge, approximately 25 miles southeast of Jacksonville.
The SJCFR is a full-service fire-rescue department providing coverage to 608 square miles, including 42 miles of coastline and 210 miles of inland waterways. Automatic mutual aid agreements are provided for the City of St. Augustine and Jacksonville Beach. The department's organizational structure is divided into functional sections with well-defined areas of responsibility. These sections are identified as: Operations, Logistics, Support Services, and Training and Fire Prevention. The Operations section is further divided into three battalions: North, South and Special Operations. The Special Operations Battalion includes Hazmat, Technical Rescue and Marine Operations.
The department has 15 stations comprised of 11 advanced life support (ALS) rescue transports, nine ALS engines, four basic life support (BLS) engines, two heavy rescue squads and two aerial trucks. ALS rescue transports are manned with two paramedics each. The ALS engines, BLS engines and heavy rescue squads each have a minimum of three staffed personnel. The aerial apparatus are staffed with two personnel.
The Marine Rescue Division provides training to marine rescue and fire-rescue personnel. All fire-rescue personnel receive training in basic water awareness during department orientation and most have also received training with respect to marine rescue. Fire-rescue personnel assigned to stations along the coastline are now receiving marine-rescue technician training in accordance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1670. In the past, fire-rescue has responded to various types of water emergencies including distressed swimmers, private airplane crashes, vessel fires and overturned vessels.
All fire-rescue personnel receive awareness-level training in confined space rescue, water rescue, trench rescue, aerial operations, high- and low-angle rescue, and hazardous materials. Most personnel continue these disciplines to include the operations and technician levels. Two centrally located stations within the county specialize in urban search and rescue (USAR)/technical rescue and hazardous materials.
A 22-foot Crownline Bowrider has a fuel capacity of 50 gallons and the maximum rated engine is 425 hp. The 12-person maximum capacity is rated at 1,875 pounds (156 pounds per person).
In the early evening hours of April 12, 2009, the boat and fire-rescue service along with such disparate entities as the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) fused in an incident neither survivors nor rescuers are likely ever to forget.
At 7:15 P.M., the overcrowded boat was returning in a northerly direction to its Beach Marine launch point at Jacksonville Beach when it rammed the starboard side of a moored 25-foot tugboat tied up to a dock under construction. The tug, registered to F&A Enterprises in St. Augustine, was unoccupied. The Crownline, estimated by witnesses to be going more than 30 mph, penetrated the hull of the tug and the wheelhouse and engine. The crash killed five people and sent nine to local hospitals. Five of the injured were in critical condition; four were stable. SJCFR reported that "the deceased were found in the boat seating area along with the other passengers. It appeared the deceased died on impact, sustaining injuries consistent with physical trauma comparable to a vehicle accident without safety restraints."