In the city of San Sebastian, located in northern Spain, a bill is being developed that could charge for rescue operations, according to The Guardian. The project is directed against drunken bathers, inept rock climbers and other people whose frivolity and stupidity are forced to raise rescue teams to their feet. The purpose of the law is to make people think before taking actions that threaten their own and others' lives.
San Sebastian is a small town on the Bay of Biscay, a popular tourist destination with four beaches and lifeguards on the go. They have to save not only accident victims, but also drunken partygoers climbing into the water at night, tourists who find themselves cut off from the land due to the tides, and lovers of bathing in the rocks.
San Sebastian City Council members say the ever-increasing streak of rescue operations has left gaps in the city's coffers. In addition, each such trip is associated with a risk for the rescuers and depletes the available human resources: if at the moment when the rescuers rescue another drunk tourist, another emergency occurs in the city, there will be no one to react.
It is not easy to develop such a bill: it is likely that its introduction could lead to people being afraid to seek help, and someone being fined unfairly. City council members say if they have even the slightest doubt that it was an accident, no charges will be filed. The new law may be passed by the end of summer.
Laws that allow authorities to charge search and rescue crew fees also exist in other countries, including eight US states. For example, in New Hampshire, where the law has been in place since 2008, there are an average of 12 such incidents per year, mostly involving tourists. There are no bills for those who go on the trail well equipped and prepared, but get injured due to an accidental fall, etc. Those who risk because of bungling are fined. By local rules, each case is reviewed by at least three people before a decision is made on charging a fee; persons found guilty may appeal the decision; fatal incidents or incidents involving people with disabilities, such as those with autism or dementia, do not result in fines.
Among the cases of application of the law, for example, the story when a group of tourists decided to climb to the top of a height of 1200 meters late in the evening on a rainy day without equipment. Or the notorious statewide case of a man who, despite bad weather and his own ill health (four hip surgeries), went solo on a five-day hike that included several peaks over 1,500 meters high. The search and rescue operation during which he was evacuated required 14 hours of work by 50 people. The tourist was fined $9,000. In an attempt to appeal this decision, he went to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The court sided with the state, stating that such an adventure was unjustified frivolity on its part.