First responders are never really off-duty.
That’s one takeaway from an unfortunate Aug. 19 incident on Lake Sawyer. While the afternoon tragedy left one man dead, it also brought praise for the efforts of Josh Hettick, a captain with the Enumclaw Fire Department.
The situation unfolded just after 3:30 p.m. when an emergency call was issued regarding a possible drowning at the popular Black Diamond lake. Hettick, who lives on the lake not far from the scene, jumped into action.
“I got in my boat and headed over,” Hettick explained in a written report. “I arrived to find a male in the water yelling that he ‘couldn’t find him.’ Other boaters were looking from their boats but no one was in the water.
“I threw out my anchor, put on my diving mask, grabbed a throwable flotation device from my boat and jumped in.”
On his second dive Hettick located the victim. “He was 10-20 yards from my boat in maybe 10-12 feet of water face down on the bottom. I surfaced for a breath of air, yelled to the RP (reporting party) that I had located him and went back down.”
Hettick pulled the victim to the surface and a Black Diamond Police Department boat soon arrived with a crew from the Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority. “We got the victim into the vessel and started CPR immediately,” according to Hettick’s written account. “When back at the dock we moved him to the beach where additional crew/medic unit later arrived.”
Hettick’s volunteer efforts were appreciated by Battalion Chief Ken Whitmore of the PSRFA. In a note later in the day to Enumclaw Fire Chief Randy Fehr, Whitmore recommended Hettick “for the appropriate recognition you deem fit.”
Whitmore was on duty when the drowning occurred, headed to Lake Sawyer and adds detail to the events of the day. He arrived to find crews performing CPR on the shore.
“After I did some resource management I returned to the shore and saw (a firefighter) in swim shorts, i.e. standard rescue swimmer attire,” Whitmore detailed in his note to Fehr. “I then recognized it was Capt. Hettick and I was confused at how (he) was able to get on scene so quickly. Capt. Hettick noticed my confusion and explained that he lived just down the shore, had seen the dispatch on his phone app, got in his boat and came to assist.”
Frantic, life-saving efforts were eventually in vain, as the victim was pronounced deceased at the scene. But that didn’t diminish the attempt, Whitmore wrote.
“Although the medics and (firefighters) worked the patient for an extended time, the resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful. I believe Capt. Hettick’s quick action, willingness to get into the water, and locate the victim gave the patient the best chance of survival that was possible.”