CPA firefighter drowns in Laolao

The remote area of Laolao Bay where firefighter Raymond Villagomez was found by Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services Search and Rescue Unit lying on the sand after spear fishing with a companion on Wednesday afternoon. Villagomez was taken to the hospital where a doctor pronounced him dead. (DEREK GERSONDE)

The remote area of Laolao Bay where firefighter Raymond Villagomez was found by Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services Search and Rescue Unit lying on the sand after spear fishing with a companion on Wednesday afternoon. Villagomez was taken to the hospital where a doctor pronounced him dead. (DEREK GERSONDE)

A Commonwealth Ports Authority-Aircraft Rescue firefighter drowned while spear fishing at East Bay in Laolao on Wednesday afternoon.

Raymond Villagomez, 21, was pronounced dead by a doctor at the Commonwealth Health Center at 4:42pm, according to Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services information officer Derek Gersonde yesterday.

Gersonde said that Villagomez was with one other person while spear fishing. He did not elaborate as to what happened.

CPA executive director MaryAnn Q. Lizama said they are saddened by the loss of Villagomez.

“Everyone at CPA is still trying to wrap our heads around the untimely passing of Ray and especially at a very young age,” Lizama said.

Lizama said that Villagomez’s brethren firefighters are most affected as they have naturally become close within the bond of brotherhood of firefighters.

“The CPA board of directors, staff, and management extend our thoughts and prayers to Ray’s family as they go through this difficult time. He will be dearly missed by his CPA family,” Lizama said.

DFEMS received a call on Wednesday at 1:46pm from an unknown person reporting a drowning incident in Laolao.

The DFEMS Search and Rescue Unit searched along the cliff lines of Laolao Bay and found Villagomez lying on the sand in a remote area of the bay.

The Zodiac 3 rescue boat of the Department of Public Safety’s Boating Safety Unit retrieved the victim and brought him to the Smiling Cove Marina.

At Smiling Cove, medics from the Garapan Fire Station were on standby. When the boat arrived, DFEMS medical technicians retrieved the body from Boating Safety officers.

Gersonde said the body was already in a body bag and medical technicians saw that the victim’s pupils were fixed and dilated. A white foamy discharge was coming out of the victim’s mouth and nose.

“All these signs are the obvious signs of death,” Gersonde said.

Villagomez was then taken to CHC, where he was pronounced dead.

Last Nov. 14, a male Chinese tourist diver drowned while three other divers were safely rescued by DPS personnel at the Grotto in Marpi.

Last June 16, a 60-year-old Korean female tourist drowned while snorkeling with some family members on Managaha Island.

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Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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