LODD: Hawaii firefighter dies of injuries from training exercise

Clifford Rigsbee, 63, was on a sled being towed by a watercraft operated by another firefighter before he was seen floating unconscious in the water


By Gregg K. Kakesako
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

HONOLULU — A 63-year-old firefighter and Tinman Triathlon athlete died Thursday from injuries he sustained during a rescue watercraft training exercise earlier this week near Diamond Head.

Firefighter Clifford Rigsbee, who is a 21-year veteran with the Honolulu Fire Department, was on a sled being towed by a watercraft operated by another member of Engine Company 7 around 10:45 a.m. Tuesday. The rescue watercraft training exercise was being conducted at the surf break known as “Suicides.”

Clifford Rigsbee. (Photo courtesy Honolulu Fire Department)
Clifford Rigsbee. (Photo courtesy Honolulu Fire Department)

The cause of the accident is under investigation, according to Fire Chief Manuel Neves.

Neves said the operator of the personal watercraft looked back and saw Rigsbee floating unconscious in the ocean.

He was rescued and brought to shore by fellow firefighters, including an off-duty fire fighter. The operator of the watercraft also was treated at a hospital and released.

Rigsbee was treated by firefighters, Ocean Safety personnel and paramedics and then taken to Straub Medical Center in critical condition where he died late Thursday night.

Rigsbee joined the fire department in July 1995 and was promoted to Fire Fighter 3 in October 2004.

“Cliff was also a well-known and nationally-ranked triathlete who had won several Tinman Triathlon competitions,” Neves said.

While off duty in October 2012, he rescued an injured hiker on the Koko Crater Trail and carried her down from the top of the trail to waiting fire rescue personnel and paramedics, Neves said. Rigsbee received an HFD Certificate of Commendation for his actions.

Funeral services are pending.

Copyright 2016 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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