Friends asking why fire department couldn't find drowned man in pool

SEATTLE -- Friends of Tesfaye Deboch, the man who drowned June 30 in a hotel swimming pool, remember the moment they realized their friend was still in the pool, not somewhere safe like they had hoped.

"I just had a horrible, sinking, sick feeling," friend Ryan Bain told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

Deboch was swimming laps in the deep end of the pool at the Quality Inn & Suites Seattle Center when he grew panicked and called to his friend for help. According to the Seattle Times, his friend -- Pavan Dhanireddy -- could not swim and instead ran to the front desk for assitance. The front desk called 911, and firefighters quickly arrived on the scene to sweep the pool using a grid search, rescue hook and thermal-imaging camera.

However, according to the Times, the 8-foot deep pool was so discolored and murky that firefighters could not see the bottom of the pool. The equipment search turned up negative, the Times reported, and firefighters gave up and left the hotel, believing the Deboch had abandoned the pool area, even though his wallet, shorts, shoes and shirt were still next to the pool.

No firefighters or emergency personal went into the water to look for Deboch, Dhanireddy said.

After firefighters left the scene, Deboch's friends persuaded hotel staff to view videotape surveillance of the pool. The footage did not show Deboch leaving, so Dhanireddy and other friends began to search the pool again with a pole. They found Deboch's body at the bottom, and pulled him out to perform CPR. Firefighters were summoned back to the scene at 8:12 p.m. -- almost three hours after they were initially called -- and Deboch was pronounced dead. An autopsy report later confirmed he drowned.

Now, friends are wondering how it was legal for the hotel to operate such a murky pool and why firefighters were unable to locate Deboch, a grad student from Washington State University in town for an economics conference.

Seattle Fire Department is currently reviewing their pool search policy.

"Since it is now clear that the drowning victim was in the pool during the earlier search, the department is reviewing the incident and will determine whether to revise any water rescue procedures," a fire department statement said.