Friday, July 06, 2007

No winners, only losers

This is one of the posts I need to reiterate it is my opinion!

The claims by Mike Barnetts dad caught my eye on the news yesterday- see here or here for just two reports- and made me sufficiently het up to want to write about it.

Mike Barnett was the poor soul stuck in a storm drain in Humberside. Despite efforts from the combined emergency services, he died.

Now let me make it clear that I have every possible sympathy with Mike Barnett senior. I simply cannot think of a more awful way to lose a son.

However, whilst I understand his anger and frustration that Mike was not able to be rescued I don't think launching a tirade of criticism at the people who were there trying to get them out is really on.

Take a look at the photo (courtesy Sky). The bloke behind Mike up to his neck in the water is a police officer. He and his colleagues put their safety on the line, standing on nigh the same spot in the same water to keep his head above it. The fire crews and police divers repeatedly went under the surface with the wicked currents to try and cut him out.

Mike actually died from Hypothermia, not drowning. I'm surmising they actually did manage to get him out from the drain.

Mr Barrett senior states the emergency services took too long to get there, no-one seemed to have a clue what to do and just argued. A helpful friend said "all they needed was a chain and a land rover".

I feel I have to say something in defence of the people who turned up. I agree Mike's situation turned out to be one of the most tragic but there were hundreds of other people in grave situations. The Hull fire chief stated 58 people in dire circumstances were successfully rescued. There would've been hundreds of calls through the switchboard in a completely unprecedented emergency situation.

I agree that the folks who turned up probably didn't know quite exactly what do and didn't immediately launch a well rehearsed and practiced rescue plan, for the simple fact that a situation like this had never occurred before. The "helpful" suggestion of a chain and a land rover isn't really handy as they are not items of kit I have ever seen lying idle around a police or fire station. If someone had turned up with such items, I think they probably would've been used.

As to the suggestion that they should've just amputated his ankle I would believe the people there were convinced they could get him out soon enough without maiming and permanently disabling before the hypothermia was too severe. Tragically they were wrong.

My point is this. Whilst I can sympathise with Mr Barrett Snr's grief I don't think it is fair to say the rescuers didn't do enough, thus implying they didn't care. I can guarantee you that every one of the blokes in the police and I'll wager my house the fire service too would've worked their butts off and put themselves on the line to try and save him, and will be nearly just as devastated at their ultimate failure.

I'm all for learning and improving from situations, and if people are found to have ignored best practice then yes they should be criticised. But here there was no best practice. They really were making it up as they went along and I can guarantee outside of Mr Barnett's family no-one will feel the sense of frustration and loss greater than those who were there trying to haul him out.

(Slightly edited for dodgy grammar and spacing 9th July)