Reports: Drowning rescuers' efforts correct

Staff Writer

Last update: September 20, 2005

DAYTONA BEACH -- Firefighters who responded to a drowning last week did everything they should have in their attempts to save the victim, a preliminary investigative report released Monday shows.
William Andrew Flannery, 30, of Long Island drowned as he and his brother-in-law swam in the ocean during a family vacation.

The drowning is the county's first this year and has hastened the enactment of a new policy that would require emergency medical workers to continue administering CPR to a patient until they arrive at the hospital, even if there are doubts that the victim may still be alive.

When Flannery and his brother-in-law, Paul Schimmenti, were swept up in a rip current just off the 1200 block of North Atlantic Avenue on Sept. 14, both men attempted to swim against the strong current, officials with the Volusia County Beach Patrol said, but only Schimmenti made it back to shore.

An investigation was launched to determine whether all rescue personnel at the scene did everything they could to save the young father, who was buried Monday in Brooklyn. He left behind a pregnant wife and an 11-month-old daughter.

The preliminary report, released by Volusia County's Emergency Medical Services division, said after officials talked to the Daytona Beach firefighter who was charged with administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation to Flannery, they determined that "appropriate clinical protocol was followed in this case."

But Schimmenti said Monday that rescue personnel at the scene "didn't do anything."

Beach Patrol Capt. Scott Petersohn said the lifeguards who began CPR on Flannery before he reached shore worked hard to revive him.

"Our guys put a lot of effort into this," he said. "It just takes the wind out of our sails when this happens."

According to county procedure, after lifeguards bring a victim ashore, it becomes the responsibility of firefighters to take over because they are trained in advanced life support.

The investigative summary shows that the firefighter at the scene did not administer CPR to Flannery because he assessed the victim and found he no longer had a pulse or any other vital signs. Daytona Beach Fire Chief Larry Taft said he was satisfied his firefighters had done the right thing.

The county's emergency medical protocol states that "all patients found in cardiopulmonary arrest by EMS personnel will receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation" with some exceptions: decapitated patients, those with rigor mortis and those whose body tissue is decomposing.

Under the new policy, which will now take effect Oct. 1, if a person in a public place appears to be deceased, the emergency medical workers will continue to provide all life-saving techniques and the person will be transported to the nearest hospital.

"One of the reasons for this is so a loved one won't be left wondering whether everything was done," said Volusia County spokesman Dave Byron.