Underwater Search and Recovery


In 1974, a group of Deputies felt that there was a definite need for the ability to search beneath the waters of Wayne County without dragging a gang of hooks behind a boat and attempting to blindly snag a piece of evidence.  As a result, the group organized training at a local pool and obtained a YMCA SCUBA Certification on their own.  The Deputy Sheriff's Benevolent Association purchased some of the equipment needed and the deputies purchased the rest.  There was some controversy at the time but it was resolved and the county agreed to accept donation of the equipment and would create the Underwater Search and Recovery Team.  A number of deputies began training and eight were named to the new team.  The original members were:

    George "Bud" Abbott
    Roger Benne
    David Dalton
    Deborah Dayton
    Donald Fletcher
    Orlando "Speedy" Gonzales
    William Shortsleeve
    Stephen Sklenar

Scuba Diving in Upstate New York is full of challenges as the new members would soon find out.  The first time the team was called into action was in December.  A family disturbance led to a woman jumping from a bridge in the swift, frigid water of the partially frozen barge canal.  The woman's spouse jumped a few moments later, in an attempt to rescue the distraught woman.  The attempt was unsuccessful and deputies searched the water for both people for five days in what turned into a multiple county effort.  The water in the canal is not normally considered to be swift flowing but this time the swimmers had to pull themselves along on ropes that were allowed to drift free on one end and were attached to another rope that was secured on the shore.

Since that abrupt start, deputies have been called to numerous scenes both within and outside the county.  Many times the resources of an agency have been exhausted and help has either been requested or rendered in an effort to provide closure for a grieving family.

Wayne County has been blessed with plenty of water ranging from the great lake of Ontario and the Barge Canal to the lazy Ganargua Creek and tiny farm ponds.  Criminals see all of this water as an opportune hiding place for the product of their crimes.  The Underwater Search and Recovery Team has assisted local law enforcement as well as their own officers with the recovery of guns, safes, cash registers, automobiles, boats, bodies and numerous other types of merchandise and equipment.  They even removed a steel navigational buoy which mysteriously appeared in the lake attached to a two ton anchor that was hidden just below the surface, causing damage in the thousands of dollars to many boats.

The team trains monthly in water from six feet deep to 130 feet deep.  It trains from a few feet to a few miles from shore, utilizing different techniques.  The absence of good witnesses and valid landmarks make the task even more difficult in water that at best can be described as low visibility and at times is complete darkness.  You could appreciate the task if you were asked to find an object, such as a ladies purse, in a parking lot at the mall and could only spend 30 minutes at a time looking for it and had to search blindfolded.  The temperature would be probably be in the 40's and you would not have a jacket to keep you warm.

The team has proven to be an invaluable service to the community.












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