DETROIT (WWJ) – It’s been a busy summer for Michigan State Police, as their dive teams are called to help with search and recovery efforts.
MSP Trooper Joel Kuhn, a member of the Underwater Recovery Team, said they respond to calls around the state about drownings — 20 or so just this summer — including the one last week in a lake in Hillsdale County, near the Ohio border.
“It was a 20-year-old woman who had been out with a couple of friends the night before. They were on the boat drinking heavily, she jumped in the water to cool off, and struggled a few moments and went down,” Kuhn told WWJ’s Zahra Huber, who had a chance to patrol the Detroit River on Marine Two, one of the 10 MSP boats in the state.
Kuhn said they used their side-scan sonar and were able to find the victim’s body in about 30 minutes. That side-scan sonar is one of the many pieces of equipment used by MSP to locate bodies and evidence underwater. It’s shaped like a torpedo and is pulled behind a boat.
“It send out a sonar signal to each side, to different distances,” said Kuhn.
Dive teams also use an “R-O-V”, or Remotely Operated Vehicle.
“It will float on the surface, and it has thrusters on the top to push it down, and thrusters in the back to move it forward. It has a camera and a blue-view sonar,” said Kuhn.
Kuhn says they’re also equipped with a special dive helmet that resembles scuba gear from old movies. This one, though, is equipped with an unlimited amount of air and weighs about 35 pounds.
“It’s rather cumbersome out of the water. It’s a lot of weight on your neck, very uncomfortable. And it will really test your claustrophobia as well as your fears,” joked Kuhn.
He says he’s personally had to wear it: “Sometimes you have to go to a better place until you get used to it.”
The Michigan State Police has about 16 people on its Marine Services Team. Kuhn says they’ve recovered more than bodies and evidence, they’ve even pulled cars and planes out of the water.