Family, friends, fellow firefighters pay respects to Clifford Rigsbee

Clifford Rigsbee (Photo: Honolulu Fire Department)

Family, friends and fellow firefighters paid their respects Saturday for one of their own who died during a rescue exercise off Diamond Head earlier this month.

Clifford Rigsbee died in the hospital just a few days after suffering severe injuries during a rescue watercraft training exercise.

He was a 21-year veteran firefighter stationed in Waikiki, an elite triathlete and coach.

Family members said Rigsbee inspired others — a friend to many and a hero to all he crossed paths with.

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One by one, hundreds of firefighters and other emergency responders said goodbye to their friend.

“He was a great instructor, had a beautiful smile and a goofy laugh that was contagious,” said HFD Capt. Todd Hugo.

Rigsbee’s son Mac said his father was a free spirit, and not only an inspiration to him, but to many others.

“He lived how he wanted to,” said Rigsbee’s son Mac. “Never waited to go anywhere, he would go. Never waited to do anything, he would do it.”

The Rigsbee family flew in from the mainland to be by Clifford’s side at the hospital.

“We saw him, we talked to him, and we held him as he left,” said Mac Rigsbee. “Not many people get to do that and that’s a testament of the fire department that brought him to shore.”

rigsbee memorial

HFD Chief Manuel Neves said Rigsbee was training in rough waters near the surf spot Suicides. The 63-year-old was on a sled, and when the rescue watercraft operator looked back, he noticed Rigsbee was floating in the water, unconscious.

“That is the day that changed all of our lives,” Neves said, “but while our lives have changed, one thing will always remain — we will never forget Cliff.”

Clifford Rigsbee’s ashes will be scattered at sunset at Kaimana Beach in Waikiki.

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