Dive Training Accident Claims Pennsylvania Firefighter

The Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania Volunteer Fire Company No. 3 is reporting the death of one of their firefighters in a dive training accident.

Michael Switala, 50, a member of Station 69 and Water Rescue 68, died August 28 as a result of an accident the day before.

Initial reports are that the deceased and his partner made their third training dive, a night diving exercise at a lake near Slippery Rock when the accident occurred at approximately 17 feet. The partner signed to Switala that he was OK and Switala responded back the same, then signed to surface and OK. The partner surfaced and did the usual "locate" his position and to look for his partner (Switala).

He could not locate Switala so he dove back down and found Switala with his regulator out of his mouth and in a flexing/seizure body position. The partner made several attempts to reinsert the regulator into Switala's mouth as well as the backup regulator with no success. Both surfaced and the partner summoned help (team members and PADI instructor). They performed CPR and transported. Switala died Sunday at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh. The Allegheny County coroner ruled the death an accidental drowning.

Firefighter Switala was an 18-year member of the department having served in several different offices within the organization. He is survived by his wife Aimee, daughter Heather, 26, and two sons, Marine Lance Corporal Aaron Switala, age 24 and Matt, age 19.

Arrangements are being handled by Frank Gigler Funeral Home, 2877 Leechburg Road, Lower Burrell. A casket-side service will be held on Thursday evening, followed by a full honors funeral on Friday morning.

Arrangements and visitation times are as follows:

Firefighter

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