Policy prevents rescue of man in Calif.

Associated Press / June 2, 2011

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SAN FRANCISCO — Fire crews and police could only watch after a man waded into San Francisco Bay, stood up to his neck and waited. They wanted to do something, but a policy strictly forbade them from trying to save the man in his early 50s, officials said.

A witness finally pulled the apparently suicidal man’s body from the 54-degree water.

Interim Alameda Fire Chief Mike D’Orazi said Monday’s episode is troubling. He has directed staff to write a new policy that would allow water rescues.

The previous policy was implemented after budget cuts forced the department to discontinue water rescue training and stop maintaining wetsuits and other rescue gear, D’Orazi said Tuesday.

“The incident yesterday was deeply regrettable,’’ he said. “But I can also see it from our firefighters’ perspective. They’re standing there wanting to do something, but they are handcuffed by policy at that point.’’

A witness, Perry Smith, told a television station the man was visible from the shore of Crown Memorial State Beach and was looking at people. top stories on Twitter

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