MOUNT VERNON — With the search still ongoing for the missing teen in the Kokosing River near Hazel Dell Road, EMS and rescue crews face a group of difficult challenges when searching a moving body of water for a person.
An EMS rescue worker, speaking with the News on condition that he not be named, said dive teams can encounter many variables during a search and have to move with caution themselves in order to work safely.
In a typical water rescue or recovery operations, usually the water is murky and, especially recently, very fast moving. With all of the recent rains, the water is often described as chocolate milk and when it moves quickly – along with a large amount of debris – it creates difficulties for divers, the rescue worker said.
He said that divers are typically tied to tenders, which are lifelines to the shore, and the diver and tender are often times connected to a rope and sometimes a communication line so they can stay in contact. Typically, bodies will be found close to where they were last seen, but fast-moving water is an exception to that.
Divers will typically only do a five-foot arch per time due to the lack of visibility and the currents. The water conditions are typically so cloudy that the divers can’t even see their own hands in front of their faces.
The dive teams typically use equipment based on the river conditions. Boats are common in most scenarios, which switch from rescue operations to recovery missions after a certain amount of time.
Some boats have a side sonar system that allows them to see “shapes” under water. Sometimes specialty search groups go to the scene and bring cadaver dogs that can smell gasses to help locate bodies.
One other side effect to finding a body under water is the reality of finding a body.
Many times, the surviving family members are on the scene and since the emergency crews can’t see well under water, they have to reach out and touch until they realize they have encountered a body. Emotions are high because everyone on the scene wants to find the victim.
Despite the difficulties, from law enforcement to the fire department, everyone comes together to get the job done, the rescue worker said.
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