12 Capitol rescuers nearly drown at sea
posted 10-Mar-2019  ·  
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Twelve “well-trained” rescuers of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) nearly drowned in rough seas off barangay Marilima last week in controversial circumstances.

According to eyewitness accounts of the incident, the group arrived sometime before noon of Feb. 25, 2019, a special non-working holiday, at the coastal village on board an ambulance owned by the provincial government and bearing license plate number SLF-398.

Some brought along family members to the outing at a beach resort owned by an official of the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office. It is not known how the rest of the group traveled to the place but a source said several pairs on board motorcycles were also seen arriving at the resort.

At about 1 P.M., another group of visitors arrived at the resort while the PDRRMO members were already drinking intoxicating liquor. A witness told the Tribune that one of them told him that they were on training but did not explain why there were drinking liquor.

Two hours later, one of the young guests told his mother that a group of three was apparently drowning out in the sea.

Alerted by the incident, a barangay official reportedly told the leader of the PDRRMO group that the Barangay DRRM volunteers could be activated to respond but the latter, identified later as one Facundo, refused.

“We are well-trained rescuers,” the group leader replied, as a team of nine rescuers, red-eyed from alcohol ingestion, carried “salbabidas” and then swam out to the area where their colleagues were struggling against the current.

According to residents, the tide was going out at the time and that the area just off the reef about 100 to 150 meters from the beach is known for its strong current that they do not swim in the area.

Swimming with the current, the would-be rescuers easily reached their distressed companions. But when they began to move towards the safety of the reef, the outward current foiled their efforts and soon had them in trouble.

Several resort personnel also responded to the emergency but also failed to reach the group. A paddle banca managed to reach them but the number of rescuers trying to board the small banca damaged its outrigger and caused the frail vessel to dangerously tilt to one side.

This prompted the barangay official to activate the BDRRMO, with the volunteer tanods responding to the scene carrying lengths of rope.

They swam to the edge of the reef, deployed along a line and began throwing the lines of rope to the troubled PDRRMO volunteers, eventually recovering all of them and carrying them to the beach.

At the shore, Facundo reportedly told the other beach goers not to take pictures or videos of the rescued rescuers as they were brought to safety. “Walang magpo-post sa facebook,” he allegedly said to the gathering crowd.

Two doctors and a nurse who were among the second visitors to arrive at the resort immediately assisted in providing first aid to the victims.

While the initial drowning victim, a woman, sufficiently recovered at the site, one of the nine who mounted the failed rescue attempt had to be brought to the Eastern Bicol Medical Center.

It is not known whether the holiday excursion was made with the knowledge or permission of PDRRMO Jerry Beo, whose assistant is allegedly Facundo.

A Capitol official told the Tribune that the matter would merit an investigation of possible violations of law, rules and regulations.

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