published 22 August 2011
by Chris Schilling
Skidding across shallow waters in the Driftwood River, the Bartholomew County (Columbus, Indiana, USA) Water Rescue and Recovery team’s new airboat nimbly maneuvered around downed trees and other debris.
It even slid across a sandbar to get past an old tree trunk that blocked the span of the river as the team tested the boat.
Sheriff’s Maj. Gary Myers, the airboat’s pilot and water team’s commander, slowed the boat and pushed the control stick with just a finger to demonstrate how easy the craft is to control.
The machine’s agility is just one of the differences between the new airboat and the one it replaced, Myers said.
The boat, acquired about a month ago, is one more step in an 18-month effort to improve the county’s water rescue team.
The team also recently acquired two newer johnboats for the price of just $400 each and is training more divers to handle situations from evidence recovery to ice rescues.
The Water Rescue and Recovery team groups members from agencies including sheriff’s deputies, police officers and firefighters to respond to emergencies on the county’s rivers and lakes.
The recovery Friday of two vehicles discovered in the East Fork White River in southern Bartholomew County provided an example of some of the team’s recent work.
The team, which grew out of the county’s former Swift Water Rescue Team, places more of a focus on diving and recovery than just rescue boating.
“We’re here to save lives,” Bartholomew County Sheriff Mark Gorbett said. “(The team) is another tool to use. We want to have the best equipment we can, and it’s just taken time to get that.”
So far this year, the team has responded to 11 calls, which included stranded vehicles, home evacuations and rescues of people swept away in powerful water surges.