Time and again, the VideoRay Pro 4 has proven its worth to the Stutsman County Dive & Rescue Team in North Dakota. In fact, it was pressed into service twice last month alone. Each time, the Pro 4 helped in the recovery of victims' bodies.
In early December, the team was called out to assist in the search of a missing man who's utility terrain vehicle (UTV) was found on top of ice about four miles east of the town of Medina. After two four-hour searches, the victim's body was recovered on December 7. Blueview sonar on the Pro 4 was used to locate the victim, and a manipulator arm attached to the ROV assisted in the recovery, according to officials.
A few days later, the team tapped the Pro 4 to locate a woman and her car, which was found submerged in a slough near her driveway. The search was initiated after she was reported missing following a visit to her son a few miles away. According to authorities, it appeared that the woman's car slid off the road and into the marsh, coming to rest in about 10 feet of water. They reported that their efforts were plagued by extremely cold weather that made it difficult for the divers and equipment to function. Once the victim was located by the ROV, members of the Stutsman dive team recovered the body.
Since acquiring the Pro 4 seven years ago, the diving squad has used it several times at locations in both North and South Dakota as well as Minnesota.
"When searching for victims in undetermined locations, the Pro 4's sonar has proven to be invaluable in locating them," said Sheldon Mohr, Training Officer for the Jamestown Fire Department, which works hand-in-hand with the dive team. "One recovery was in a retention pond for a landfill. We were able to make the recovery without subjecting divers to the hazardous materials in the water."
Mohr noted that in addition to using the VideoRay ROV during recovery missions, it has also been called on by law enforcement agencies in search of evidence. And the Pro 4's sonar and camera are used to locate any underwater hazards – such as fences and trees – before a diver goes in the water.
"While the Pro 4 will never totally replace divers, it has been our go-to tool to locate drowning victims," Mohr said. "Most recoveries were completed without putting a diver in the water. But when we did deploy divers, we were able to follow the tether (which is attached to the ROV to provide power and communications)."