Saturday, January 5, 2013
A Champaign, Illinois man drowned Jan. 1 in a mall pond as
increasingly angry observers demanded a rescue, at least 13 minutes
after the local fire department arrived at the scene.
The man, Kenneth Brown, 20, slipped under the freezing water 18
minutes after falling through the ice, but local firefighters didn’t
launch an inflatable boat until just before he disappeared. The
firefighters pulled Brown’s body out of the water roughly an hour after
At least one passing resident recorded much of the event, including the moment when Brown went under the water.
Onlookers demanded firefighters rescue the man, and even volunteered
for the task, but were told by the Champaign police to stay away.
The professionals’ caution contrasted with a rushed Dec. 30 rescue
of a man who fell into ice near a sledding site in California. Numerous
sledders rushed to the man’s aid, only to also fall through the thin
ice. They all escaped the ice when inflatable sleds where thrown into
the icy water.
A Champaign firefighter declined to comment on Brown’s slow-motion
death, while 22 firefighters and six vehicles stood on the nearby shore.
“We can’t say anything about it,” the firefighter told The Daily
Caller. “We’re directing all [responses] through campaign police
The Champaign Police Department did not return TheDC’s calls.
Brown’s death has prompted complaints in the city about the inaction by police and firefighters.
“In this crisis situation, when a man was drowning, because of the
potential danger to themselves they just stood there?” said one
commentator, ‘cnneka1’, in the comments section of the website of the local newspaper, The News Gazette. “For 20 minutes? What are they getting paid for?”
“Myself and one other man got so angry watching the fire dept rescue
teams ‘playing on the bank’ that we offered to be tied off and go in
ourselves, and we certainly were threatened with arrest !,” claimed
another user, named perryupopcorn.
“The only thing the police did was move the ever increasing angry
crowd back when they started demanding the fire dept at least attempt to
rescue the young man !,” perryupopcorn added in another comment.
It is unclear whether perrupopcorn actually witnessed the incident.
When pressed by the newspaper’s reporter, police and firefighters defended their inaction.
“They followed our ice rescue guidelines pretty much to a T,” Champaign Deputy Fire Chief Eric Mitchell told The News Gazette.
“They established command … they made visual contact and attempted to
talk to him, threw rescue devices, and went on the water,” he said.
“Going on the water is the last thing you want to do. They did all the
other things first.”
“The way we’re trained, you have several different positions that
have to be filled to do water rescue safely. … You have a leader and a
victim observer [whose] job is to make contact visually with the victim
and try to talk to him,” he told the newspaper.
Some commentators in the newspaper’s comments section, however,
applauded the firefighters’ caution, noting that an unruly or frightened
victim can endangered rescuers.