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After the morning briefing the SS headed out for the search area and got set up. Well it didn’t take long for the SS to locate a target. It’s clear as a bell and there is no doubt about what we are seeing. They aren’t hard to recognize when you see them time after time.
I wasn’t on the boat but was at the office when the Dive Team gets paged. This was not a total team page but a selective page for safety reasons. The FNG’s are staying dry.
Surface conditions suck, it’s rather deep and the visibility is going to be less than zero if that’s possible.
The surface conditions are so rotten that they can’t get the SS marker any closer than 25’ at 200 degrees magnetic from the target. Not what we need. Under better conditions we can get the marker right next to the target.
My #2 can’t make it. My #3 has been up most of yesterday, all night and all of today. So I have him be Safety Officer and 90% as well as run the topside show. If he has to dive he will but only to save my sorry butt should I screw up.
Next in line is the lead Detective and he is battling a nasty sinus infection so I ground him even though he is willing to dive.
Next is a good diver who is feeling uneasy with the recovery but will be Safety Diver.
So that leaves me with a minor problem. My Fireman who doesn’t have a problem with the depth as I have had him over 130. What he does have a problem with is the depth and the Zero vis. And I respect that, as we haven’t spent enough time in that area.
But he wants to go. So I’m about as stern as I can get about what we will do and what we will not do. I also pounded it into his head that at any time he can abort the dive.
The interesting thing is I’m a Gary, we are looking for a Gary an now my buddy is a Gary. Hummmmmm.
Normally I would do this dive on my own but not under these surface conditions. We can’t keep the boat still long enough.
So the end of a 200’ search line is kept on the boat and the two of us have the other end as we start down.
At 35’ it was like someone forgot to pay the power bill and it went from fairly light at 30’ to total dark at 35’. I drop like a rock and it stressed out my partner a bit. Not a good thing to be doing on my part. We hit a 93’ bottom in under a minute and the first thing that went through my mind was, “What in the hell are we doing here?”
We have a confused sea above us and bottom vis so bad that with a UK800R I can’t see the carrier for my gauges, let alone the gauges and I need a bearing of 200 degrees.
So while Gary stays at the anchor I start up. About 15’ off the bottom I can make out what the gauges are telling me get a bearing and go back down. Now it’s *** which way do I go? I’m blind again. So I just head out to the end of my 30' section of line.
At the end I have a choice to either go right or go to he left. A 50 50 chance. Well let me tell you this, I not playing the lottery or going to the Casino any time soon. I picked the wrong direction. So I did what I thought was a 180 degree run and found nothing. Having all this loose line prevented me from making a complete 360 degrees. If we did we could get the down line tied up with our search line and that could prevent the topside crew from bringing up our victim.
So we aborted the dive and headed up. We tried to do a safety stop at 20 but we bounced from 27’ to 13’ for 4 minutes.
Back at it at 0800 hours with some Mongo anchors and lots of line to hold us in position.
I'm mighty proud of my team mates for having the balls to voice their opinions on the dive. They didn't feel good about it so they didn't do it. Exactly what I want them to do. Maybe they do listen to me some times.
I’m pooped, sore and disappointed but there is always tomorrow. I hate to fail but we are all back and talking about it.
We are so short on manpower I was back on patrol right after the dive. Graves just came on so I went home.
Last edited by Gary D.; April 27th, 2006 at 02:13 AM.
Good job on an extremely difficult and potentially dangerous recovery. Glad all went well.
We have applied for funding on a Side Scan and I can only pray that we get it. The safest dive you can make is the one you don't. The side scan provides you with the information you need to not make the dive.
This operation took a team effort between the SS, ROV and Divers. Had any one element been removed we would still not have him in our grasps.
The SS found Gary in 3 minutes. Yes folks, 3, that is THREE minutes, 180 seconds.
So after the mess yesterday and calling the dives due to some nasty conditions, we were back at it bright and early today.
The SS had him remarked but an attempt to get him with the ROV failed. Gary is a big man and the ROV just couldn’t get him to the surface. So the ROV was positioned right next to Gary with lights and camera on.
Under much better conditions than yesterday I take a recovery line and one of my guys has a second line. He goes to the lights out depth at 35’ and hangs. I go to 95’ and start looking for the ROV light.
I can’t see it at all so I stretch out keeping my fins on the surface marker anchor. This time I get lucky and see a faint glow in front of me. It can only be one thing, the ROV.
I make my way over towards the light and I can see the reflection of two very white hands in front of me with the ROV right next to him on the opposite side.
I look him over and decide to secure the line around his waist just above his belt. So I basically give him a hug as I’m passing the line under him and said; “Hi Gary I’m here to bring you home bud”.
After double checking the line I went to the ROV, gave the camera an OK and a thumbs up. I then made my way towards the surface with the line I attached to him.
The plan was for me to return to the buoy line to surface and contact the hang diver but I changed my mind on the bottom.
We had the buoy line, the hang divers line, the ROV cable and my line. So in an attempt to keep all four separated I decided to do a free run to the surface well away from the other three lines.
It worked well but now my hang diver doesn’t have a clue I’m above him. After several signals for him to surface I went down after him. When I got to him from above He about down loaded in his dry suit. Then we both surfaced. When asked why he didn’t surface when signaled he said he hadn’t seen me so he wasn’t leaving.
Then it was a major operation to get Gary loaded into the boat but we did it.
Total dive time today was 7 minutes. Less than 1 down, 3 on the bottom and 3 back. The 35’ run was around 2 minutes.
It’s over, many, many people have closure, and I feel like a ton of bricks have been removed from my shoulders.
We debriefed a couple of hours after we got him turned over to the funeral home. During the debriefing we got it out and will be revamping some training issues we need to address.
It was a good operation full of problems and solutions. We accomplished a lot and we learned just as much. The bottom line is that we all came home safe and completed our objective.
I caused some problems for the newer guys and they need to be commended for having the mindset to say I’m not ready and took a job they were ready for. I guess they do listen to my preaching. The FNG’s saw another side to me. During training I’m about my goofy normal self, but on a real operation such as this one I am very serious and focused, which is something some of them have never seen.
Pass on to your team a thank you for a great job well done. I have talked to several people this week who know Gary mainly through his real estate business. There is great relief for many people thanks ot your team.
We tried to do a dive Tuesday in this lake, but my buddy called it after one minute 'cause he couldn't see his gages - and that was in just 20' of water. In black waters in the 40s with zero vis at an attitude of 2400' at over 100' deep, there is a very high nark factor to deal with as well.
You and your team are incredible. Thank them from the folks who knew Gary, and the rest of us who sit home watching the news while you guys are doing the hard work.