New report reveals more details of hotel pool drowning

by: Graham Johnson Updated:


Seattle, Wash. - A new report reveals how Seattle firefighters missed a drowning victim in a hotel pool.

Tesfaye Deboch, 27, was eventually found by hotel guests nearly two hours after he was reported missing.

 On June 30, Seattle firefighters were called to the Quality Inn near Seattle Center after a hotel guest reported someone drowning.

 Firefighters from Station 2 in Belltown arrived, looked in the pool from many angles, thought they saw the bottom and never found the victim.

 They could not find anyone who had actually seen him go underwater and figured he was not in the pool.

 Two and a half minutes after arriving, firefighters called off the water rescue team that dispatchers had sent from Sodo. That team was about 10 minutes out.

Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean defended that decision.

"The officer on the scene has the right to code green units if he thinks they're not needed. His review at the time was, I can see the bottom of the pool, I cannot see a patient," Dean said. "They made a determination, and it turns out that determination was wrong."

The water was a little murky, but seemed clear enough to firefighters on scene.

The department's report says the crew did not understand how challenging it can be to spot a victim in a pool, even when the bottom can be seen.

Today's report says firefighters looked around the hotel for the missing man -- used a thermal imaging camera on the pool which was basically useless in this situation -- then left 14 minutes after they arrived.

An hour and 45 minutes after the initial drowning report, an off-duty firefighter from Texas staying at the hotel found the victim by sweeping the bottom of the pool with a pole in water that had grown murky.

 The firefighters never got in the pool; they relied on a civilian who was swimming around looking for the victim.

Unless they're on the dive team, Seattle firefighters are not required to know how to swim.

Chief Dean says nothing like this has happened before and the department will look into changing training protocols. He says it will also look into adding more rescue swimmers to the department - or spreading them around the city. They are now all housed together in a single station in Sodo.