Ill. Elite Volunteer Special Rescue Team Seeks Recruits
Effingham Daily News, Ill.
Nov. 20—EFFINGHAM—Nick Goldstein in full encapsulation diving gear entered Lake Sara while tethered to a rope held by shore responder Kristin Kyle on Sunday.
But even before touching the water, divers walked through a tedious series of steps of properly gearing up and setting up wash stations for their exit from the water at the Effingham lake.
The teamwork training was one that rescue scuba divers for Effingham County must take when encountering hazardous materials situation.
"Once we become involved, usually there's a submerged vehicle or a submerged body and we're looking at diving into a hazardous body of water because of these things," said Jeremy Kyle, captain with the Effingham County Dive Rescue Team.
The team's efforts are oftentimes needed in police work.
"We help solve crimes. We recover evidence and thousands of dollars in value worth of property," said Jeremy Kyle. "We've done homicide investigation dives, suicide investigation dives and accident investigation dives."
The volunteer team's efforts help bring closure to families touched by these tragedies, he said.
Sometimes the divers are called to retrieve lost items inadvertently dropped into the water.
In the case of a submerged vehicle, divers have to be aware of oil, gasoline and petroleum contaminants in the water. If there's a body involved, divers have to also be aware of potential biological contaminants in the water.
Jeremy Kyle, who has been with the dive team for 12 years, led the classroom and lakeside training Sunday before divers suited up in full encapsulation diving gear. Part of the training involved diving, but focused primarily on decontamination of the diving gear, diving equipment and divers themselves.
The volunteer dive team takes on big jobs, and it is work that not a lot of people are on a waiting list to get involved in, he added.
Divers and shoreline responders come to the team from other professions such as police officers, paramedics, nurses, retirees, business managers, computer technicians and engineers. Each person brings different strengths to the team.
"It's definitely advantageous to the team to be diverse," said Goldstein, a 10-year diving veteran.
Terry Trueblood, commander of the Effingham County Dive Rescue Team, said the group is an elite one.
"This job is a completely different animal from any other type of scuba diving," said Trueblood in a telephone interview. "We are on a recruitment drive now and we are looking for diver positions and shore responders (or non-divers) to be filled."
Team members must pass a physical fitness test, an interview committee screening and a background investigation before even being offered a position. Then training begins, which for divers it requires about 110 hours to become a basic diver. Less training is required for the shore responders.
Public safety divers, like this team, don't get to choose where or when they get to dive and the work they do on the dive team isn't for everyone, said Trueblood.
"Being in zero visibility water and searching for a deceased victim would not be high on the priority list as it relates to being a scuba diver," said Trueblood. "But families we help are very thankful. It brings resolution to a situation that is otherwise very difficult for a family."
Each mission is unique.
"We have missions that last an hour, and some that last multiple days," said Jeremy Kyle.
Trueblood said the men and women on the dive team make a commitment to three years of service in exchange for the training they receive.
"It costs us a lot of money to outfit each diver," said Trueblood. "The divers purchase a portion of their gear themselves. "
Equipment provided for each diver runs around $5,000. The divers engage in an average of 12 dives a year.
"I love helping out my community," said Jeremy Kyle. "When you go under water, it isn't typical for most people. But we do it and we do it with relative safety and I'm proud of that."