It’s been a tragic summer for more than 20 Alberta families that have lost loved ones in drowning incidents.
Members of the Central Alberta Rescue Diving Society have been busy putting their lives on the line since 2013 to bring missing victims home to their families, but often, the search is not easy.
It’s a dive far different from the one you would do on a Caribbean vacation.
“You’re talking cold waters. You’re talking zero visibility, weeds, barbed wires. Who knows what’s under the water,” CARDS president Luke Jevne said.
That is just a brief description of what volunteer divers with the society encounter when searching for someone who has gone missing in a lake or river.
Jevne said with all the possible obstructions and little visibility, dives can be very dangerous.
“We do put our lives on the line, but we do it to bring the person home to their family. There are babies, there are grandparents, there are husbands and wives, and they need to come home to their family and loved ones,” Jevne said.
To keep divers safe, some unique gadgets are brought in to help.
“We run a side-scan sonar to scan the bottom and find a contact,” Pole said.
Once the sonar locates a contact, it is then marked and the team brings in an unoccupied underwater robot to view the area before divers are sent in.
“Technology is very important to the job we do. The side-scan sonar adds a factor of safety to what we are trying to accomplish,” Pole said.
They are tools that have been used far too often this summer, Jevne said.
“This year has been an extremely busy year for us. Since July 1st, we’ve had nine calls. Last year, we only had four calls,” Jevne said.
Jevne said with plenty of warm weather ahead, he urges people to have a safety plan in place before heading out to a body of water and always use a life-jacket.
“That’s the most important thing because those jackets would save the drowning victims we’ve dealt with this year,” Pole said.
With the potential for more rescues this year, the volunteer-driven non-profit needs donations for its provincewide operations and to maintain and upgrade its equipment.