Authorities ID Boy Whose Drowning Sparked Outcry from Lifeguards

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Plaque outside the office of the San Diego County Medical Examiner. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Authorities released the name Tuesday of a 19-month-old boy whose drowning at Mission Bay Park exacerbated a heated dispatch-policy dispute among city emergency-services providers.

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Farhan Salehi, who lived with his family in San Diego, was found submerged in the model boat pond alongside Mission Bay on March 12, according to the county Medical Examiner’s Office. Medics tried in vain to revive him at the scene before taking him to Rady Children Hospital, where he was pronounced dead three days later.

Last week, lifeguard union leader Ed Harris alleged that a change in dispatch procedures led to a critical delay in responding to the drowning call.

The altered policy, which went into effect three months ago, reassigned water-rescue 911 calls to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department‘s main dispatch center from a smaller facility used solely by lifeguards. City officials contended that the move was necessary because the latter system tended to become overwhelmed, forcing some calls to go unanswered during high-volume periods.

Fire Chief Brian Fennessy adamantly denied Harris’ contention, calling it “patently false.”

“There’s been no confusion on the part of … dispatchers, and there have been no delays as a result of this change,” Fennessy told reporters during a news conference last Wednesday.

— City News Service

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