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Concern over JFRD's response to Hanna Park drowning victim

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Updated: 5/22/2013 3:45 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The drowning death of a man at a local park is raising questions about whether more could have been done to save him.

"They got the boy in but the grandfather is out there now," said a frantic bystander, who called 911 from Hanna Park beach.

Paul Demshar lost his life Wednesday, caught in a vicious rip current. Family members tell Action News he was trying to save his 10-year-old grandson, who was also in danger.

"Drag him in so the waves weren't crashing into him," said Chas Riggleman. 

The good Samaritan heard a child scream from the shore and dived right into action.

"When I swam up to him, I reached him, he was face down in the water, unresponsive, floating there," he said.

Riggleman said he propped the 62-year-old grandfather on a surfboard and, fighting strong waves, he struggled to bring Demshar ashore.

"When we got to the shore, we were expecting rescue to be there, others to help; actually we were still the only ones there," said Riggleman. 

A number of witnesses contacted Action News with concerns over how long it took fire and rescue to get on scene. Action News obtained the call log from JFRD, and the request for help came in at 12:16 p.m. An engine was en route one minute later. According to the records, a crew arrived 10 minutes after the original call. According to JFRD, the average response time is six minutes.

"I can assure you, the firefighters that responded were responding as quickly and as fast as they could," explained the president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters, Randy Wyse. 

"I still don't see anybody," said the bystander on the phone with 911. The dispatcher said, "Yes ma'am, they're trying to locate you guys."

The good Samaritan says the rescue response wasn't fast enough.

"Multiple times we were wondering when fire and rescue was going to get there," said Riggleman. 

Demshar was taken by helicopter to UF & Shands Hospital in Jacksonville, where he later died. A sign, posted at the park entrance, told visitors that no lifeguards were on duty.

Action News reached out to the Demshar family, and they say they are numb and broken. His daughter also says she is "incredibly grateful for every person that tried to save my dad."

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imtellin - 5/18/2013 7:37 AM
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JRFD cannot be all things to all people at all times... some people need to account for their own actions & inactions... the rip currents should have kept grandpa out of the water,, yet he chose to place his life in danger & paid the price... folks,, wake up,, people went swimming long before there was organized rescue squads,, & sadly some paid the ultimate price for their zeal... know your limits,,, don't venture out past your knees when rips are rough,, keep children in the shallows if at all they are allowed in the water,, respect that ocean,, she is a beatch who takes as she pleases...
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