Allegan County, Mich.—Allegan County Sheriff’s Department made quite a splash this week. The 19 members of the Diving, Rescue, and Recovery team put in several hours training in the water. Now that the ice is melted, and Spring is here, they know there will be people in the water all over West Michigan in no time, and they say they need to be ready.
The Allegan County Water Rescue team has seen 11 drownings and 5 rescues since 2008. They say the majority of their rescues and recoveries are during the Spring and Summer when people are getting out more to swim, fish, or boat.
“Today we are basically doing some evidence recovery. A lot of times during the year when homes get broken into, the individuals will throw things from those crimes into the river,” said Allegan County Sgt. Todd Wagner.
Our Fox 17 crews ended up at their training by chance. We got a viewer tip saying there was police activity in the Allegan County area by the Rabbit River. When we arrived the police setup looked like a real crime scene: flashing lights, cop cars lining the blocked off road, recovery team tent, and their equipment truck. As our Fox 17 crew moved closer, we quickly found out what looked like a serious rescue, is a simulated exercised.
“Today we are practicing evidence recovery exercise. It’s part of our annual training,” said Wagner.
The 19 officers train at least once a month about 12 hours each time.
“We are practicing locating small items that are moving in swift water so we are actually doing two things: practicing in moving water while also looking for small items,” he said.
If you have ever lost a piece of jewelry, a watch, or something like it in river, lake, or ocean, you know that finding these items are near impossible. Not the case for this recovery team.
“It also depends on visibility. Today we have good visibility we are looking anywhere between a foot and a half and two feet which is really god for this time of year.”
They don’t always get that lucky though.
“Sometimes we are working in zero visibility where you are better off closing your eyes with your hand over it. And everything is done by feel.”
The reason for this training is to recover, but also to do these tests in all different places.
“When we are called for an actual rescue or recovery, we are more prepared or know the waters we are dealing with,” said Wagner.
Wagner says repetition is the secret of success.