Fire dept. fined after drowning of one of their own

SHERILL's FORD, N.C. -- The North Carolina Department of Labor has fined Sherills Ford-Terrell Fire & Rescue in connection to the death of a rescue diver. 

Newton firefighter, Bradley Long, died in early-June while searching for the body of a drowning victim in Lake Norman.

Long was working as part of the dive team at Lake Norman through Sherills Ford-Terrell Fire and Rescue to recover the body of Isaiah Cruz, who had drowned in the lake. 

The Labor Department is taking action against Sherills Ford-Terrell & Fire "for two alleged serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina with a total penalty of $5,600," said the Department of Labor officials. 

The citation states that the employer did not furnish employees with a place of employment, "free from recognized hazards that were causing or were likely to cause death or serious injury," and that employees were "exposed to a low and/or out-of-air emergency while performing dive operations." 

According to the autopsy report, Long died due to arterial gas embolism while SCUBA diving. An arterial gas embolism is a blockage of the blood supply caused by air bubbles in a blood vessel or heart-- in Long's case, the blockage was in the heart, the report states. 

The report says Long and his dive buddy reached the rescue basket at the depth of around 80 feet. An air check was completed with surface personnel 14 minutes into the dive, and the divers were instructed to begin a controlled ascent. 

Long's ascent was performed with increasing speed from 68 feet and without performing required safety stops, according to the dive computer, the report states. 

Long's dive buddy said, according to the report, that Long was ascending from the dive at a 20 feet safety stop when he motioned to another diver that he was out of air, removed his mask, removed the mask of his dive buddy and panicked. 

The dive buddy then surfaced from the water and called for help. 

According to the dive computer, Long was breathing at a rapid rate throughout the dive, which causes rapid gas consumption, descended to a maximal depth of 81 feet, and did not ascend to the surface when he was low on air. 

According to the autopsy report, a review of the dive equipment showed the gas cylinder was essentially empty, and that the backup gas sources were unused. 

Further, the report states that no major issues that would have impacted equipment function were identified.

Copyright 2016 WCNC


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