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 they arrived.
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 department.”
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.