A firefighter drowned while trying to rescue a teenage boy from a lake because of “a catalogue of failures” by his brigade, a court has heard.
10-11-04-Sub-Officer Paul Metcalf died as he tried to save student Reyaz Ali from the lake in Holcombe Brook in Bury, Greater Manchester, in September 1999.
Bolton Crown Court heard that Greater Manchester Fire Service had failed to assess the risks of water rescues. It denies a breach of duty charge brought under health and safety law. Mr Metcalf, a part-time firefighter based at Ramsbottom fire station, was dispatched as part of a crew to rescue Reyaz Ali, a 15-year-old from New Zealand, who also died in the rescue.
He was studying at the Darul Uloom Islamic College, less than a mile from where the accident happened.
Paul Metcalf displayed the selflessness and courage you would expect of a firefighter
Tim Horlock QC The teenager had been with friends when he swung on a rope into the water and got into difficulties.
On Tuesday, Bolton Crown Court heard that Greater Manchester Fire Service had failed over a “lengthy period of time” to address the risks associated with water rescues. It denies the breach of duty charge brought by the Health and Safety Executive.
Tim Horlock QC, prosecuting, said: “Paul Metcalf and others entered the water in a vain attempt to rescue him [Reyaz]. Mr Metcalf’s safety rope became snagged underwater
“Paul Metcalf displayed the selflessness and courage you would expect of a firefighter and lost his life as a result of trying to save another.”
The court heard that Mr Metcalf, a joinery lecturer at Accrington and Rossendale College who was a “strong swimmer”, entered the water 30 minutes after Reyaz disappeared. He drowned after his safety line became snagged on a branch beneath the water. He said that a “catalogue of failures” by the brigade led to Mr Metcalf’s death. The firefighters had no specialist equipment or training and had been given no information about the risks they faced during water-based operations, Mr Horlock said. He also told the jury that there had been other occasions between 1994 and Mr Metcalf’s death when safety procedures were recommended for such operations but never implemented.
The case continues.