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Search and Recovery 2019 Wrap Up

Rachel Doornekamp   |   December 30, 2019

There are a wide range of applications for Deep Trekker’s Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and crawlers. From aquaculture, commercial diving, ocean science and maritime industries to infrastructure, energy, municipalities and defense, Deep Trekker’s machines are versatile and capable. In addition to these industries, Deep Trekker ROVs have proven themselves as effective and useful tools for search and recovery teams. Specializing in identifying targets of interest, victim and evidence recovery, and rapid search response, a Deep Trekker ROV can enhance and assist search and recovery teams.

When time is of the most importance, Deep Trekker ROVs have eyes in the water in seconds. In time sensitive situations, the ROV provides real-time visual. Add-on sonar allows for accurate and effective navigation in the turbid waters. Tailor-made tools such as additional lighting or grabber arms allow teams to retrieve victims or evidence.

The easily transportable and deployable robots allow teams to work effectively in remote and difficult locations. In an industry as potentially dangerous as search and recovery, the assistance provided by an ROV keeps divers safe and out of precarious situations. For an indepth look at the use of ROVs in search and recovery check out our large area search and recovery case study.

Throughout 2019, Deep Trekker ROVs have helped numerous search and recovery teams accomplish their missions.

Houston County Rescue

Perhaps one of the most difficult missions was Houston County Rescue’s recovery of Kelsey Starling. In an incredibly tragic boat crash on Smith Lake, Alabama, Kelsey Starling was thrown from the boat she was riding on and disappeared.

With a maximum depth of 300 feet, Smith Lake is the deepest lake in Alabama. The man-made reservoir covers a forest of trees reaching 90 feet in height, making recovery challenging and dangerous for divers. Using the DTG3, the Houston County Rescue Unit thoroughly searched the lake bed from their boat. The depth of the lake would have required divers to spend nearly three hours decompressing for a 45 minute search but the DTG3 allowed the team to search all day, reducing risk for divers and maximizing search time for Kelsey Starling.

Houston County Rescue Chief and Board President Ashton Davis noted that “by far the best piece of equipment other than divers is this ROV,” adding that the work possible with both human divers and an ROV makes for an ideal search and recovery team. The battery life allowed for long searches in deep and potentially dangerous waters without unnecessarily tiring divers, while the sophisticated camera provided searchers with a high quality view in waters with varying visibility.

Three months and one day after the devastating crash, Kelsey Starling was found in the final 300 square feet of the search area using the camera of the DTG3. The Deep Trekker team send out a sincere thank you to the entire team at Houston County Rescue, and our deepest condolences to the Starling family.

Lee County Search and Rescue

The Emergency Services Department of Lee County consistently integrates the DTG3 directly into their search and recovery procedures.

After conducting witness interviews and testimonies to determine an appropriate area, the Lee County team uses sonar patterns on their boats to pick out targets underwater. Rather than suiting up and sending divers down to confirm the targets, the team sends an ROV into the water to review the targets in minutes. Once the victim or evidence has been found, divers either follow the tether to the target or the Deep Trekker ROV is used to retrieve the evidence.

Shane Seagroves, Emergency Services Director of Lee County Government, remarked that “at the end of the day we’re looking for 3 things; safety, efficiency and timeliness. And it (Deep Trekker) hits all 3 of those for us.”

2019 wasn’t the only big year of search and recovery for Deep Trekker - check out our Peruvian rescue mission from 2018. As always, our team of industry experts is available to answer any questions you may have.