NIOSH report stresses dangers of surf rescue

By FireRescue1 Staff

OCEAN SHORES, Wash. — The dangers involved in surf rescue training have been highlighted in a NIOSH report released Thursday on the death of a Wash. firefighter.

Captain Robert McLaughlin, 40, of the Ocean Shores Fire Department, drowned during an exercise in March 2006.

NIOSH investigators believe the drowning was ultimately caused by a combination of exhaustion, hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning.

In their report, they recommend instructors ensure that personal watercraft (PWC) are never boarded by an operator or a passenger while the engine is running to avoid the dangers of CO poisoning.

In addition, they urge personnel to wear issued personal protective equipment — Capt. McLaughlin’s hypothermia may have been accelerated by the non-insulated gloves he had purchased himself and was wearing for dexterity. Departments are also advised to analyze surf rescue operations to determine a minimum level of fitness and strength for participants.

The report details how a wave knocked Capt. McLaughlinoff of his personal watercraft (PWC), and he was unable to re-board. He became trapped in the current generated by the PWC and attempts to pull him to shore with a tow strap failed because of the rough surf conditions.

NIOSH also recommends that training exercises should be monitored by EMS units and treated with the same response level as actual emergencies.

Related Resources:

 NIOSH REPORT: Captain Robert McLaughlin

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