Lake Mead National Recreation Area is by far the deadliest National Park, and drownings account for most of the 250+ people who lost their lives there over the last few years.
Fortunately for the families of the most tragic drownings, local environmental consulting company Earth Resource Group of Las Vegas, NV, volunteers their time repeatedly to find and recover victims when the depth and location exceed the capabilities of local responders and the National Park Service (NPS). This has happened repeatedly – in 2015, using a VideoRay Pro 4 and Smart Tether, they located a victim in over 300 feet (over 90 meters of water) in under an hour .
Earlier this month, Steve Schafer, Todd Osmundson and Steve Fanell of Earth Resource Group once again located and recovered a victim in less than an hour. The scenario was all too common – an accident near a dock involving a poor swimmer who entered the water without a personal flotation device (PFD,) and drowned nearby. The location and recovery were hampered by hazardous underwater conditions at the scene. According to Schafer, “We used the Pro 4 with BlueView Sonar and Smart Tether. The NPS apparently had already cleared the area with their Edgetech side scan sonar and followed up with an ROV they have with video only. They had no luck. We found the victim in 42 minutes after we were set up. We could have done the recovery but the coroner has the final call and they asked Las Vegas Metro Dive Team to come out. We kept the ROV at the victim and the team followed the tether down to do the recovery. This site was insane with underwater cables and junk (old dock that sank etc.) that are used to anchor the marina. Looked like a spider web on the sonar. A 22 year old young man (poor swimmer) that tried to jump in and retrieve a tube that floated away. We found him in 74 feet of water about 90 feet from the end of the dock.”
Two lessons from this tragedy are worth emphasizing and repeating. ALWAYS wear a Personal Flotation Device when near water or on a boat. Even if you feel you don’t need it, you can set an example for others. The second is to use technology in hazardous conditions like this search – these conditions would have been very hazardous to human divers, but with the appropriate technology and expert operators, the location and recovery can be done without risk of injury or worse.