Imagine you’re fishing on a large lake, you lean over the edge of a boat and you fall and hit your head on a large rock.
You plummet into the depths of the lake.
Before this week, in such a scenario, a member of the McKean County Dive Team would suit up and head into the water, not knowing exactly where to look.
There’d probably be low visibility. It’s likely dark. It’s likely chilly. And there’s a good chance the diver could suffer an injury.
Now the McKean County Dive Team has a remote-controlled submarine, equipped with a camera and sonar, that allows divers to stay out of the water. Earlier this week, the dive team took part in training to be able to deploy the device, known as a VideoRay Pro 4 remotely operated vehicle, in local waters.
“It’ll be a lot safer for our drivers,” said Andrew Johnson, director of the McKean County Department of Emergency Services.
The vehicle is able to search for a person who has drowned, or for an object, in the bottom of ponds, lakes, rivers or other bodies of water.
After finding an item, the vehicle will be able to retrieve the object via a robotic claw. Then the dive team would follow the tether line down to the object and bring it back to the surface.
At a training earlier this week, two representatives from VideoRay taught individuals how to use the device. The classroom portion took place at the county 911 center along U.S. Route 6 near Smethport, and for the hands-on portion, volunteers journeyed to a rock pit filled with water in Roulette Township as well as the community pool in Port Allegany.
The vehicle cost about $60,000, purchased using a U.S. Homeland Security grant.
“It’s been on our wish list for a long time. Probably 10 years (ago) is when we found out something like that was available,” Johnson said.
The dive team is made up of about 20 members who are all volunteers. Some of the members took off work for the training earlier this week, Johnson said.
“They hold training regularly. They are a very active team,” he said.
Usually the dive team responds to 15 to 20 incidents a year. He said he felt the team could deploy the remote-controlled vehicle Wednesday night, if need be.
The local dive team serves the Northwest Central Emergency Response Group, which includes McKean, Cameron, Elk, Clarion, Clearfield and Jefferson counties.
“It (the vehicle) will be extremely helpful,” Johnson said.