Washington Firefighter Injured in Training Exercise

The fire captain was working to get an advanced certification for the city's surf rescue team when his personal watercraft capsized.


A 40-year-old Ocean Shores Fire Department captain working to get an advanced certification for the city's surf rescue team is in critical condition at a Seattle hospital this morning after being pitched into the surf when his personal watercraft capsized Monday afternoon.

Capt. Rob McLaughlin, who joined the Ocean Shores Police Surf Rescue Team last July, was a passenger on the watercraft that was maneuvering through the surf line just north of Ocean Shores, Police Lt. Russ Fitts said.

Firefighter/paramedic Curt Begley, who is also new to the rescue team and working to get his personal watercraft certification, was the driver.

"We purposely, at times, dump vessels out in the water so we can get back on them, but in this case they hit a wave wrong and it capsized the vessel," Fitts said.

Begley was able to get back on the watercraft, but McLaughlin became separated. Police Sgt. Paul Luck, a senior team member and instructor, was about 50 yards away on his own personal watercraft and attempted to pick up McLaughlin. Breaking surf conditions prevented Luck from getting to McLaughlin right away.

When McLaughlin became unresponsive, Luck jumped in the ocean and signaled to the on-shore observer that he needed help. McLaughlin, who was in the water for about 10 minutes, was stabilized and carried to shore. He was rushed to Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Aberdeen and airlifted to Seattle