Wendell Nope Police Diving Pages
Search/Recovery Diving
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The Utah Department of Public Safety Dive Team is often involved in Search and Recovery Diving. The following photos and descriptions present some of the activities the DPS Dive Team have participated in.

On 6 June 2010, a young man drowned at Huntington Reservoir, Utah. The DPS Dive Team deployed Side-Scan and Sector-Scan sonars to aid in the recovery. Divers were successfully guided via voice comms to the victim in the absolutely black water.
This photo was taken of DPS Divers in a training exercise to simulate a person falling through the ice while fishing. The Diver is unable to walk to the location, as he is considerably heavier than the person who fell through. The only possibility is to be dragged to the hole. In this photo, one Diver is already there. The second is being pulled to the simulated hole. Once both Divers are secured onto the same line, they will initiate a search beginning under the ice and then descending to the bottom. The water temp is 38F water and these Divers searched for over 30 minutes. The ice was rotten and what began as a small hole ended up as quite a large one.

This is one major difference between Recreational Ice Diving and Police Ice Diving. In addition, the Police Divers are mission-oriented and must first find and then extract the victim. Whereas, Recreational Divers "play" beneath the ice and enjoy the wonderment, Police Divers are at a considerably higher risk.
This photo was taken during an extensive sonar sweep of a high-mountain lake in Montana. The victim advised his wife he was going ice fishing one day and never came home. His truck was found at the lake and he was presumed to have fallen through the ice. The entire lake froze hard by the time the DPS Dive Team arrived.

Notice the unique configuration for the Sector-Scan Sonar. Almost 100 holes were augered through the ice and the sonar head was placed such that it could function. The Dive Team spent three days on this detail, with extraordinarily cold conditions and ice that was over 18" thick.
This photo was taken as I was being the Backup Diver to the Primary Diver checking out a sonar target in the Colorado River. A Grandmother, along with her two Grandkids, drove off the highway, went about 80' down a steep embankment, crashed into a tree, and then the car rolled over twice, ending up in the river. Grandma & the older child got out ... the 5-year-old did not. We Sector Scanned for 3 days and finally got an image on the steep slope of the bank, about 20' deep. A tremendous main flow current, a strong eddy currrent which went back up river, a huge boulder field that caused upwellings and downwellings, plus 38F water temp and zero visibility ... all these factors caused us to feel more like underwater Spiderman than divers. To watch a video of the actual deployment, click on one of these links. Large file Small file
In October 2007 a tragedy occurred at Lake Powell, Utah. A three-year-old child named Kamberlie Binks drowned in the Bullfrog Marina, within 20 feet of the family houseboat. Kamberlie looks enough like my own four-year-old daughter, Eva, as to be a confused as her younger sister. Right from the onset, my insides were twisted up as I thought, "But for the Grace of God, there go I," meaning that our children are our greatest treasures and the Binks family has lost one of theirs. I felt tremendous grief for the family and could only imagine their anxiety.

The houseboat was docked in a boat-slip in water that is 114' deep, 59F on the surface and 54F on the bottom. The best visibility is from the 0-30' depth, daytime darkness occurs at 50', zero visibility is encountered at 80', and from 95'-110' there is a layer of dead algae (lake turn-over) which made any use of lights or video cameras useless - it is almost soupy in nature. Also, there are submerged guide-wires & cables stretched between each boat-slip and from the outer edges of the dock to 10,000lb cement blocks on the bottom. The blocks and attached cables cause the dock to maintain its shape. So, as you might surmise, this is an underwater search nightmare.

This photo is an image of the Sector-Scan Sonar screen showing the child's body near an accoustic target that was placed close-by for easier diver access.
I was assigned the physical recovery. At a depth of 30', she would be transferred to two NPS Divers, allowing us to perform any shallow decompression stops unhindered. We descended carefully and once we got to the bottom, I felt around slowly and then experienced a shock. My hand was moving horizontally just off the bottom as my index finger bumped into the front of her semi-clenched hand. The momentum of my hand caused my finger to go in-between her thumb and fingers and then her thumb kind-of moved back into its original position. There was a momentary frightful thought in my mind that she had squeezed my finger. My conscious logic overwhelmed the thought and I announced to the surface that I indeed had her. By now, we were nine minutes into decompression. My right hand/arm was totally involved with holding her as we ascended. Once visibility returned, I noticed that her hair was sweeping back and forth across my mask as we moved upward. My arm began to cramp from holding her close to my chest. At 30' the NPS Divers met us and assumed control of her, taking her directly to the family on the surface. I now focused on the cramp in my right arm, hoping that the continuous muscle tension as I ascended had not brought on a case of the "Bends." By the time we surfaced, my arm seemed very normal. This was a difficult dive for me. Once we were released by the Paramedic, I walked to the back of the Binks family houseboat. There was the family, circled around Kamberlie's body and grieving. The sight of it was too much for me and I walked to the far end of the marina and stayed alone for a few minutes to de-stress. I felt some pretty strong inner conflict: I was honored & proud to be part of the recovery effort, but this one struck close to home. Once I got back home, my daughter Eva's hugs and kisses were absolute magic helping me get over the difficulty of what I had been called upon to do. In fact, I brought Eva to work with me the next day for therapy and she drew pictures for me, etc. and it was just what I needed.
This photo was taken during a comprehensive search effort by the DPS Dive Team subsequent to an aircraft crashing into Utah Lake. Using the Side-Scan Sonar and the Sector-Scan Sonar, almost every piece of the aircraft was recovered, along with the three occupants. This was a massive effort and numerous pieces of fuselage the size of beer cans were recovered over a huge debris field.
This photo shows a DPS Diver splashing on a deployment to assist the US Geological Survey Agency to recover a damaged scientific water sampling instrument in the Great Salt Lake. Anyone who knows this lake is aware that the high salinity levels require almost double the weight in order to submerge. This particular diver needed 63 lbs to get down. Because this dive was over 30' deep, the diver had to go into the "deep brine" layer, which is comparable to the Brine Seeps of the Gulf of Mexico. The Diver reported that he could "feel" the deep brine layer and bounced off it the first time he tried to descend into it. Only by dumping all air in his BC and dry suit was he able to get to the bottom. Additionally, note the reddish-brown film on the surface in the left photo below. This is a large volume of Brine Shrimp eggs, which float on the surface. Anyone diving when eggs are present - and not encapsulated - might be subject to a medical condition known as "Egg Eye." These shrimp eggs have spikes on them like cockle-burrs and can easily blind a person.
This photo was taken during a 2003 DPS Dive Team training scenario in which a diver became entrapped beneath an underwater log. The DPS Dive Team, then without Full Face Masks or Comms, acted in unison to provide him additional air, disentangle him, and then safely bring him to the surface. One critical issue is to recognize that such a diver may end up with a considerable decompression obligation. For example, this scenario took place at Blue Lake, Utah at a simulated depth of 50'. The altitude at Blue Lake is 3,750' which interpolates a 50' actual dive to a theoretical depth of 58' (round up to 60'). If the rescue took 60 minutes, the victim would require a 19 minute decompression stop and 134cf of breathing gas. If the rescue takes 90 minutes, the victim would require a 41 minute decompression stop and 204cf of breathing gas. These are issues which must be taken into account, especially if the victim and responding divers are only using 80cf tanks. Lastly, the rescuing divers must be judicious with their bottom time to prevent excessive decompression obligations themselves. The following video shows the actual training scenario, including the victim being carried to the surface. Blue Lake Diver Rescue

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