at one end. The backhoe picked up that end, and a second lifting
sling was placed to carry the entire piece out of the area.
One of the large FWC capture slings was placed into the water
in the newly made opening, and a rope was pushed through the
culvert using a 2½-inch hose, capped and inflated with air, and
placed on the tail of the animal, under the direction of the FWC
officers. The manatee was pulled backward onto the submerged
sling and then wrapped and hoisted by the backhoe. The manatee
was placed into the back of the waiting FWC truck for transport
to a waiting care facility at Sea World in Orlando. The animal was
rehabilitated at the facility and reintroduced back into the St.
Johns River system on January 4, 2017.
The culvert system was repaired by the COJ storm water per-
sonnel, replacing the cut-off portion, sealing it back into service,
and replacing the dirt that had been excavated, all before night
had set in. The interaction and planning between JFRD and
Public Works, prior to the cutting operations by the TRT, made
it possible to have almost no cost to the community in the repair
of the system.
Coordination between multiple agencies was necessary to result
in the successful rescue of this 950-pound mammal. COJ Public
Works, JFRD TRT, FWC, and JSO all were in close communication, and as the incident became a media and community
event, information was shared between agencies. FWC and JFRD
provided updates on the different aspects of the operation to the
media, as a coordinated effort.
In today’s media-hungry population, any incident can take on its
own life, as seen by this incident’s coverage worldwide via the
various streaming methods available, with more than 80 news
outlets providing live images. Emergency responders must account
for and should prepare for that, and if properly handled, a positive
image for everyone can be achieved, along with executing the
primary goal of saving life—no matter what the form.
Robin R. Gainey is a 37-year veteran of the fire service and a member of the
Jacksonville (FL) Fire Rescue Department. He is a district chief in suppression and
is the special operations duty chief for A shift, after a six-year stint as a captain on
the local technical rescue team. Gainey has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Florida.
The manatee was placed into the back of the waiting FWC truck for transport
to a waiting care facility.