LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (News10)-A leap into frigid water is just another day at the office for divers with the New York State Police Underwater Recovery Team. Neil Case, the Division Diving Officer for the team, invited News10’s Anya Tucker to observe one of their training exercises, which includes wide range sonar technology.
“So, [we] get them under the ice and they [divers] are being directed into a known target that we staged out here, which happens to be a jet-ski,” said Case. Oxygen bubbles indicate where the divers are swimming under a thin crust of ice on cold Lake George. The jet-ski is about the size of a snowmobile, simulating a situation where a snowmobiler went through the ice. “They are closing their eyes, and they are trusting “Topside” to direct them into that target,” adds Case. By “Topside” he means the dive team members on the surface who direct the divers using technology called Sector Scan Sonar.
Mounted on a tripod under the water, the device offers a 360-degree view of a landscape that cannot be seen by the naked eye due to the murky conditions. “Topside is actually directing the divers right into our target. All they have to do is go left, go right, go straight until Topside puts them on to their target.”
The team doesn’t just keep this knowledge to themselves, they share it with other agencies. Today, the NYPD Scuba Team joined in the training on a parcel of shoreline operated by the Department of Environmental Conservation near the Sagamore resort in Bolton.
The technology they are training on has being used in recent high-profile searches like the one along the Mohawk River for missing Schenectady teen Samantha Humphrey. Emergency rescue efforts are usually conducted by area fire or law enforcement agencies, while the NYSP Underwater Recovery Team is typically brought in to recover victims of drownings, accidents or crimes. “Every recovery that we make is emotionally difficult,” says Case. But he adds that being able to offer closure to families and loved ones underscores the important meaning and purpose behind their work.