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Veteran firefighter remains in critical condition after training incident

  • COURTESY HAWAII NEWS NOW

    An ambulance on Tuesday responded to a park near Diamond Head after a firefighter was critically injured in a training accident offshore.

A 63-year-old firefighter and nationally-ranked triathlete remains hospitalized in critical condition today following a watercraft training accident off of Diamond Head.

Firefighter Clifford Rigsbee, a 21-year veteran with the Honolulu Fire Department, was taken to the hospital in critical condition after he was pulled from the water around 10:45 a.m. Tuesday from the surf break knowns as “Suicides” off Diamond Head, according to Fire Chief Manuel Neves.

Also injured in the training accident was the operator of the personal watercraft who was treated at a hospital and released, Neves said.

Both firefighters are assigned to Engine 7 stationed at Waikiki.

They were part of a crew of five who were training off Diamond Head where there were high surf conditions Tuesday morning, Neves said.

Rigsbee was on the sled being towed when the incident occurred.

He said the operator of the watercraft looked back and saw Rigsbee floating in the ocean and immediately went to his aid.

Also assisting in the rescue was an off-duty firefighter, Neves said. The fire department also scrambled other units, including its helicopter. Lifeguards with the Ocean Safety agency also participated in the rescue operations.

Neves said the department is trying to determine what caused the accident and whether Rigsbee had an existing medical condition.

Neves said that Rigsbee, a 21-year veteran, was assigned to the department’s training division. As a Firefighter Three, Rigsbee was the second-in-command whenever Engine 7 responded to an emergency, Neves said.

“He was a very gifted and very talented,” Neves said.

Rigsbee has won several Tinman Triathlon competitions.

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