9-1-1 audio sheds light into suicidal drowning

Raymond Zack
June 8, 2011 7:49:34 PM PDT
Emergency audio released today reveals a mother's desperate plea for help in an incident where first responders watched a man drown to death in Alameda.

The 9-1-1 call is muffled, but the anguish in the caller's voice is crystal-clear.

A woman standing on the shores of Alameda's Robert Crown Memorial State Beach watches in horror as a suicidal Raymond Zack wades into the bay.

"He's not my son, but he's going way out in the water," the witness tells 9-1-1 dispatchers. "Can you have someone come down?"

"We are going to have someone on the way," the dispatcher replies.

As those 9-1-1 calls came in, at least 10 Alameda firefighters and police officers watched from the shore. The first responders never went into the water because they say they were not trained to help with water rescues.

As they stood by, newly-released dispatch logs show how other rescue workers scrambled to respond.

The Coast Guard told a dispatcher it would take 40 minutes for its boat to arrive. The Alameda County Sheriff's Department said it didn't have a boat in the water.

East Bay Regional Parks said it had a boat available at 12:24 p.m. A passerby pulled Zack's body from the water at 12:30 p.m.

Zack's foster mothe, Dolores Berry,r watched helplessly as the whole scene played out.

"He's way out in the water right now," Berry told dispatchers during a separate 9-1-1 call. "He's trying to drown himself."

Berry told the dispatcher he was despondent and depressed and had attempted suicide before. The dispatcher assured her that help was on the way.

"He's way out there," Berry said. "He can't swim. Hurry up, he's way out there."

At a packed city council meeting, residents of Alameda said they'd lost faith in their first responders. The mayor has promised an independent probe into the incident and the city's fire chief says training for water rescues will resume.


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