In a line of duty death report, completed by Mike Tucker, chief of the Bureau of Fire Standards and Training within the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of State Fire Marshal, the 10 recommendations included a notice of violation based upon the investigation’s findings.
The report also stipulated the department provide water rescue training, available through the Red Cross as well as the United States Lifesaving Association, and familiarization in basic surface water rescue to all responders who may be called to enter the water.
“Until the training is completed, personnel should not be allowed to perform water rescues,” reads the report.
Authorized by state law to investigate the causes of firefighter injuries, illnesses, safety-based complaints, or line of duty deaths, and to issue recommendations as to the facts surrounding a water rescue line of duty death to arrive at the best means of preventing future injuries, Tucker’s report outlines a series of departmental deficiencies that led to the death of Brian Stephen Smith, 56, who entered the water in rough surf conditions to rescue an adult man and his 14-year-old son.
Smith, a member of the fire department for four years, who had completed 206 hours of Florida Firefighter I training in Sept. 2018, “entered the rough surf with no flotation or water equipment to attempt a rescue,” read the report.
“Water rescue equipment that is provided by (the St. George Island Volunteer Fire Department) has not been trained on in a practical or realistic setting to include its limitations to ensure competency with the issued equipment,” it went on to cite, as a contributing factor to Smith’s death, as well as “(a) lack of operational guidelines or policies that outline various steps, and tactical measures for surf rescue events on the beach.”