Heroic firefighter relives tank rescue

  • Tricky situation: rescuer Lionel Furbert (Photograph supplied)

    Tricky situation: rescuer Lionel Furbert (Photograph supplied)

  • Tricky situation: rescuer Jacinto Brown (Photograph supplied)

    Tricky situation: rescuer Jacinto Brown (Photograph supplied)


One of a pair of hero firefighters who hauled two men out of a water tank after they were rendered unconscious by fumes relived the rescue yesterday.

Lionel Furbert, a veteran firefighter and EMT, was the first to go down into the tank after the fire service was called to the incident.

Mr Furbert said that when the team of four firefighters arrived at the Warwick house there was “a lot of commotion” with terrified family members and neighbours clustered around the tank.

The 2017 Firefighter of the Year added: “People were crying — family members and loved ones of the guys. Some were hysterical, which was understandable; they could not go into the tank to get them because the fumes were too strong.”

The two men had been painting the walls with a strong epoxy resin on Monday night and passed out from the fumes.

Mr Furbert said that the fire truck, driven by Michael Madeiros, was too big for the drive of the home, so he had to run about 100 yards to the tank.

Fire service sergeant and EMT Vance Hassell assessed the situation and came up with a rescue plan.

Mr Furbert put on a breathing set, similar to scuba gear, before he clambered down into the tank.

Mr Furbert said: “It was tricky going down because the ladder they had used wasn’t quite tall enough and our ladders were too big. I went down by myself, the other guys were getting backboards and ropes and so on.

“I was going down to assess the patients and get ready to get them out of the tank.

“I asked the bystanders which of the men had been down there the longest so I could bring him up first. I started strapping the first one to the backboard.”

Mr Furbert was joined in the tank by a second firefighter, Jacinto Brown. They got the first casualty out and into a waiting ambulance.

Mr Brown assessed the second casualty, who had started to come round.

Mr Furbert said: “We were giving aid to the second gentleman and he became conscious once we brought him up.

“I put him into the recovery position and he started bringing up [vomiting] as soon as he got some fresh air.

“He was hooked up with oxygen and I started assessing him, asking him his birthdate, today’s date and assessed his pain.

“He was able to answer most of the questions.”

Mr Furbert added: “It was a good team effort.

“The bystanders did a good job; one of them was a former firefighter.

“They were just talking to the men, which I think is good to do even if they are unconscious. Just saying ‘hang in there, help is coming’ helps even if they are unconscious — their subconscious hears it.”

Mr Furbert, who has been a firefighter for 25 years, said it was the first time he had dealt with that kind of emergency — and that it should be a warning to others.

He told the public: “Anytime you use a product like that, make sure it is a well-ventilated area or use breathing apparatus.”

It is understood the two men are recovering from their ordeal in the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

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Published Aug 6, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 6, 2020 at 4:23 pm)

Heroic firefighter relives tank rescue

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