Honolulu has agreed to settle with the family of a firefighter killed during a water rescue training exercise in 2016 by paying $5.25 million. Clifford Meredith Rigsbee died on June 14, 2016 while participating in water rescue training on the southeast shore of Oahu near Diamond Head.
Rigsbee, 63, was riding in a sled being towed by a jet ski in rough seas. After traversing a series of eight-foot waves the jet ski operator looked back to find Rigsbee facedown in the water unconscious. Rigsbee died of blunt force injury to the head and neck, with cervical vertebrae fractures and spinal cord injury. Hawaii’s state Occupational Safety and Health Division fined the Honolulu Fire Department $15,000 over the death.
The family brought the wrongful death suit in federal court as an admiralty action. The constitution gives federal courts jurisdiction over claims arising from torts that occur on the “high seas” and other navigable waterways.