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GUE/DIR recovery dive in California

Discussion in 'Tech Trip Reports' started by roakey, Jan 23, 2002.

  1. roakey

    roakey Old, not bold diver ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Colorado Springs, CO
    3,580
    182
    63
    Not exactly a trip report, but interesting. These guys have to be doing something right; rarely do LEOs allow civillians to help in any way.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-000005262jan20.story

    They come as a team from jobs as disparate as engineers or elevator technicians to wherever the disaster may be, hoping to pull closure for despondent families from the deep water.

    The specialty divers have no official name, pay for their training and equipment, and earn no money for their efforts, whether they are finding bodies, black boxes or murder weapons in water so deep that even seasoned county rescue divers cannot reach them.

    Eight deep-water divers, trained under the Florida-based Global Underwater Explorer program, helped last week in the effort to recover the bodies of three men who died when their boat crashed Jan. 11 in Castaic Lake. With the help of remote-controlled sonar equipment, they found the three bodies, two of which they brought to the surface Friday. Saturday afternoon, the body of Nelson Roy Brinkman, 30, of Phelan, was pulled from the lake after divers using sonar equipment located the body. The bodies of Charles Wiseman, 47, of Castaic, and Steve Coulombe, 38, of Agua Dulce, were recovered Friday. Los Angeles County lifeguards found the fourth victim, Ken Lane, 41, of La Canada Flintridge, floating in the water immediately after the crash.

    The four men--all avid speedboat enthusiasts--allegedly were testing a new high-performance boat manufactured by Coulombe's company, High Torque Marine, when the twin-hulled craft flipped and sank. Witnesses told authorities the boat was traveling at about 80 mph at the time.

    Lane and Brinkman worked as engine builders for Coulombe. Wiseman, a concrete subcontractor, was a customer and friend.

    The boat's wreckage and the bodies were located 247 feet below the surface--nearly 100 feet beyond the limit county divers are trained to go.

    About 20 divers in California are trained to participate in such deep-water recovery efforts, led for eight years by Beverly Hills accountant Michael Kane.

    "Closure is the driving force," Kane, 39, said. "People exploit tragedy all the time, but we do this for love of the sport."

    High-profile missions such as airplane crashes cause the most pressure, the divers say, but the most gratifying are those in which they help people like Amy Comtee through the grieving process.

    Comtee's 62-year-old father, Wayne Derx, was missing for 15 days after disappearing last Sept. 2 while diving off Catalina Island.

    Kane contacted Comtee after the Tempe, Ariz., woman posted a message on an Internet bulletin board asking the dive community for help in finding her father's body. His team found her father on the first day of its search.

    "When someone dies, it's not just the need for closure, it's needing to know where they are," Comtee said. "I was so incredibly touched that someone would risk so much just to bring us some comfort."

    The team's rigorous training prepares them for cave exploration and deep-water diving and helps reduce some of the risks. Those risks include the possibility of paralysis or death due to accumulated dissolved gases bubbling in the body if a diver surfaces too quickly from water deeper than 100 feet.

    "With every rescue and recovery that you go on, you're going into an environment that's already killed someone else," said Mark Lonsdale, a member of Kane's team and a training officer for the county divers. "In deep-water diving, there's no room for error."

    County divers, about half of whom are volunteers, are trained to go only as deep as 150 feet because it is too expensive to maintain the capability for the rare deep recoveries, Lonsdale said. To maintain their deep-water certification, divers must perform hundreds of deep-water dives on a regular basis. Kane and each of his volunteers spend about $50,000 a year on equipment, he said.

    "Diving is a very, very tiny part of what sheriff's [rescue teams] are required to do in the big picture," said Lonsdale, 46, of Santa Monica. "The best option is to use guys who train to that level because they want to."

    Kane said it took a while for county rescue officials to gain confidence in his deep-diving team. When he first offered the group's services, he said, officials were reluctant to work with them, instead referring them to families in need.

    Within a couple of years, though, he said his team was invited by law enforcement officials to help with missions ranging from finding guns discarded in the ocean to retrieving the black boxes from fallen airplanes.

    Last week's Castaic Lake recovery was the first time in Lonsdale's 13 years with the Sheriff's Department in which divers went to that depth, he said.

    The deep-water divers who participate in recovery efforts place themselves in the sport's upper tier, Global Underwater Explorer President Jarrod Jablonski said. Kane requires that his team members--all volunteers who pay for their own equipment and training--undertake hundreds of dives deeper than 200 feet before being allowed to help with recoveries.

    "Just the act of looking for a dead body adds stress to an already stressful environment," Jablonski said. "Only a reckless person would try this without hours and hours of specialized training."

    Like Kane, dubbed "Mr. Showtime" by the group, the divers all have engaging personalities. Kane exuded confidence last week at Castaic Lake as he prepared for the dive, lugging 120-pound double tanks and swim fins.

    In addition to having Type A personalities, the divers all revel in risky behavior and think clearly under pressure, Kane said.

    "You have to have that gene in you to jump down to 400 feet to locate a dead body," Kane said. "But you can't be the type to panic when you see it."

    Separating emotion from the task at hand is the most difficult part of a mission, said John Walker, a UC Irvine elevator technician who has helped Kane.

    "We have to look at the bodies not as human beings but as targets, like, 'Yeah, we found it,' " said Walker, 40, of Westminster. "We want to help with the closure, but we have to be more clinical than emotional."

    Most team members live in Los Angeles and Orange counties, although some are as far away as Monterey and San Diego. About one of every 10 seriously interested divers are chosen for the group.

    "Your team is only as strong as the weakest link," Kane said. "If you have a cowboy or a solo player, he puts the whole team in jeopardy."

    Although the divers use $200 worth of gases for each dive and take time away from work, they refuse payment for their services.

    Instead of payment, families are asked to make donations to Catalina Island's hyperbaric chamber, which treats injured divers.
     
    FreeFlyFreak likes this.
  2. 100days-a-year

    100days-a-year Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: NE Florida
    2,127
    522
    113
    Sad but cool Roak.$50,000 on gear,$200 on gas sounds kinda high tho.I'm gratified to see the class these guys show.
     
  3. roakey

    roakey Old, not bold diver ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Colorado Springs, CO
    3,580
    182
    63
    Yhea, when I read that I thought that those numbers are probably for the group as a whole.

    Having worked with the media in past, inaccuracies in their reporting is expected.

    Roak
     
  4. 100days-a-year

    100days-a-year Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: NE Florida
    2,127
    522
    113
    Having known techdivers in the past there is a possibility someone exagerated.Maybe if you count my truck and the breakfast and dinner I eat on the way.Never the less it exemplefies the behavior those snotty DIR guys have.Imagine them doing public service diving and not wanting any compensation.
     
  5. Rick L

    Rick L Manta Ray

    # of Dives:
    Location: merrimac mass. USA
    593
    0
    16
    Um maybe its just me but who cares?
    They did a great thing and asked for nothing in return!!!
    These divers did us all proud and asked for no money!!
    How can you put that down?
    Maybe its just me Rick L
     
  6. Divesherpa

    Divesherpa Instructor, Scuba

    1,203
    2
    0
    I agree with Rick L.
    Although Mr. Showtime sounds more like an a-hole, they seem to present their mission as one of mercy rather than one of self glorification.
    Mr. Showtime does sound self glorified, doesn't it?
     
  7. 100days-a-year

    100days-a-year Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: NE Florida
    2,127
    522
    113
    RickL,sorry I had my tongue in cheek.Also a little baiting.I know and have met some of the fellas here in Fla who recover/rescue when local authorities are not trained in that area.Never have I heard of any compensation or "glory" being asked for.You're right about them doing us proud.
     
  8. Rick L

    Rick L Manta Ray

    # of Dives:
    Location: merrimac mass. USA
    593
    0
    16
    Im sorry! I just didnt see anyone pointing out how great this was
    for them to do for the family!! And to not pick the familys pocket
    in such a sad time. There are few people who could do this type
    of diving and recovery!! I would imagine they could just about name a price! To do it for free wow what can you say?
    sorry Rick L
     
  9. 100days-a-year

    100days-a-year Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: NE Florida
    2,127
    522
    113
    RickL,no prob.I shouldn't be engaging in baiting and innuendo on the net anyway,so much is lost in the written word.
     
  10. roakey

    roakey Old, not bold diver ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Colorado Springs, CO
    3,580
    182
    63
    Found a post on another board by Michael Kane, aka MHK, aka "Showtime" about the rescue.

    Post can be found at: http://www.eboards4all.com/935869/messages/1378.html

    ****************

    Posted by MHK on January 21, 2002 at 10:22:06:
    IP:63.193.144.171

    It seems as though some have seen the article about our efforts and I, as well, want to identify myself with John Walker's comments that not enough credit was given to the other team members. John and I had the opportunity to be interviewed and I know we both diclosed the team members names, but my sense is that space limitations precluded a full listing, so I share John's thoughts.. Without a full team effort we could NEVER have completed this mission. Thanks guys!!!

    Further to my earlier report respecting the dive operation I thought I'd describe the events of Friday and Saturday. On Thursday evening Sgt. Connelly notified me that the sonar equipment that they had flown in from Canada was turning up some meaningful information and could our team be ready to go Friday morning. Once again, thanks to a herculian effort by Jim Hoffman, John Walker and Terry May the blending process was completed in short order. Early Friday morning our team arrived at Lake Castaic. The team consisted of the bottom diver's of John Walker, Kendall Raine, Mark Lonsdale and myself with Pat Farina & Terry May working as support divers. We were told that the sonar imaging located *targets* in the 240' range. We mixed to allow for some added safety margin and blended a 15/50, using 50/50 and 02.. The bottom water temp was 51 degrees and the visiblity was less then 5' and it was as dark as you could ever imagine..

    The sonar technology was very helpful and was able to pinpoint certain targets, but was limited with respect to direction. In other words, the sonar image could show a target but it wasn't able to show which direction the target was from the sonar. It reads 360 degrees so the operators were aided by the use of ROV's to help with direction. Accordingly, we were told about a jump that we were scheduled to make at approx. 2:00.. However, we were faced with extreme wind conditions on Friday which prompted the boat to get swept off the target. It took another couple of hours of waiting in the cold and the wind to re-discover the target. All throughout all the respective governmental agencies were very helpful and cooperative. It was a totally professional operation and I believe that much of the credit for that belongs to Sgt. Connelly for his leadership abilities.

    Finally at about 4:00 we were told of a pretty sure target so Mark Lonsdale and I were team 1. We were told that the bottom was 240' and that the target was within 30' of the down line. As it turned out the vis was much worse then Tuesday and we had 5', at best. Upon reaching the bottom I tied off a line and Mark and I began a search pattern and at about 180' degrees we located the body. Mark proceeded to secure the body while I attached the lift bag.. After Mark and I secured the body and cleared the area I shot up the lift bag. We left the bottom after a 10 minute bottom time and completed our deco in 50 minutes so we were out of the water in an hour. The major complexity of his dive was that we were told we were in 240', whereas the actual recovery took place at 262', so to answer Frank's question of last week, we needed to adjust * on the fly*..

    About 7:00 Friday evening Sgt. Connelly asked us if our team would be willing to complete a night dive recovery since they had just acquired a pretty good target. John Walker and Kendall Raine agreed, with Pat & Terry agreeing to act as support. Once again, it's important to note that we had the lake closed off, we had ample support from the Lifeguards, Sherriff's and local law enforcement so the controlled conditions allowed for the night recovery. Kendall and John proceeded and were able to secure the body within 5 minutes of leaving the surface for a recovery depth of 259'..

    Upon arrival at base camp, as Walker noted, the family members were all still awaiting word as they had set up a week long vigil in the remote hopes that we could retrieve a loved one. The elation in their voices and in their hearts is what this is all about.. One of the family members told me that he will sleep for the first time in a week because of the recovery.. That is what this is all about!!!!!

    The bar had now been raised since three of the four had now been recovered and the boat had been searched, so we didn't want to disappoint the last family, however it's important to note that we can't let our judgement get clouded when it applies to dives in the 260' range. Accordingly, we needed solid information and we needed some sleep and fresh tanks..

    We arrived on Saturday morning ready to go again.. Due to prior commitments none of the other bottom team was available other then Mark Lonsdale and myself with Terry and Pat once again available for support. What that meant was we only had gas, divers and support for one jump so the info needed to be solid. The wind had calmed down for Saturday and the conditions were much more favorable and at about 3:00 Mark and I received the call.. By now we had a routine going and Pat and Terry knew exactly what we needed, they preformed magnificantely and Mark and I were able to retrieve the final body at 256' with a bottom time of 9 minutes and a total run time of 51 minutes.. Again the vis was less then 5', the silty condition once we located the body and began to work reduced the vis to almost non-exsistent and the water temp was 50'..

    Afterwards, we had a major de-brief with all the players from the various agencies involved and at the briefing what was obvious to everyone in the room was that this was a total team effort, team commitment and team success.. Everyone involved was equally valuable and the entire project could not have been completed had it not been for a herculian effort by all involved..

    For my part, I want to express pride, gratitude and appreciation to everyone but I wanted to specifically recognize the following:

    Sgt. Mike Connlley
    Mark Lonsdale
    John Walker
    Bob Titus
    Kendall Raine
    Terry May
    Pat Farina
    Scott Brooks
    Jim Hoffman

    I read somwhere in the L.A. Times that the * team is only as strong as the weakest link* ;-), but seriously truer words were never spoken because our team really helped three families get some closure..

    Hope this fills in all the blanks, but let me know if you have follow ups..

    Later
     

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