In a story that seems too unbelievable to be true, a charity shop worker drowned in a shallow lake in Gosport, England, after firemen and rescue workers stood by and refused to help. The man, 41-year-old Simon Burgess, fell into the water while feeding swans and was left there until a rescue team with individuals who were legally able to assist reached him 28 minutes later. And while the incident occurred last spring, officials are starting to hear testimony in an official inquiry this week.

Simon Burgess Drowns in Shallow Water as Firefighters Watch

Simon Burgess (Image Credit: Portsmouth)

The firemen, who were reportedly only 25 feet away from the man, allegedly refused to rescue the man, as they cited health and safety regulations. And a police officer who arrived after learning about the incident was reportedly called back after he started moving into the ankle-deep water to rescue the man.

When the specially-quipped team eventually made it to the scene, the man was transported to a local hospital where he later died. Authorities suspect that Burgess initially fell into the water after suffering an epileptic fit.

Daily Mail has more:

Gillian Hughes, 53, said ‘you’re having a laugh’ when firefighters said they could not rescue Mr Burgess. A fireman responded: ‘no, that‘s health and safety’. […]

The lake’s depth is one-and-a-half feet (0.5m) at the edges and up to three feet (1m) in the centre. It is 182 feet wide and 333 long.

Ms Hughes told the inquest she phoned emergency services and begged for them to rescue Mr Burgess when they arrived.

Simon Burgess Drowns in Shallow Water as Firefighters Watch

During an inquest this week, Hughes described seeing the man feeding the swans and then moments later she says she noticed him face-down in the water. While she shouted for Burgess to come out and yelled, “You’re not allowed in there,“ he apparently had a smile on his face and ”looked like he was swimming.” Moments later, he was still.

Fearing for her own safety, as she wasn’t sure if Burgess was distressed or if he was mentally imbalanced, Hughes said that she declined to get into the water.

“The firemen arrived with the police and I said ‘he’s only been there five or ten minutes so if you hurry you might save him,’” she explained, going on to document that the rescue workers had told her they weren’t able to do so.

These details were shared during a hearing at the Portsmouth Coroner’s Court.

(H/T: Daily Mail)