KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — Kosciusko County is known for its large number of lakes and home of the headwaters of the Tippecanoe River. Because of this there is a necessity to have emergency personnel trained for any type of water rescue and even recovery.
There are two active dive teams — Warsaw Dive Team, comprised of Warsaw police officers and members of the Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory, and the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office, comprised of sheriff’s deputies. “With all the lakes in Kosciusko County having the equipment and having available enough devices and manpower is huge,” said Warsaw Detective Sgt. R.J. Nethaway, Warsaw dive commander. “We’ve talked about doing a joint operation, for a while now, working together, working for one goal — the safety of the community.”
Both Nethaway and Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Shane Bucher, county dive commander, stated they have all the equipment geared toward safety of the first responders and the public.
“The city has been gracious to provide us with amazing equipment,” said Nethaway. This includes an underwater camera, drone and one of the best sonar units available and boats. The unit has two inflatables and a flat bottom boat. One of the inflatables is jet propelled for swift water response. The flat bottom boat is the operations boat.
The county is equipped with a boat and a sonar unit. It can also utilize boats and manpower from Turkey Creek Fire Territory and North Webster Fire departments.
The dive teams also assist in training local fire departments with the operations in case there is a need.
“We are very well supported by K21 Health Foundation, Kosciusko Community Foundation, KREMC, taxpayers and private donations,” Nethaway said, with Bucher agreeing. “This has allowed us to get equipment.”
Among the equipment purchased from these donations and funds have been dry suits, underwater video camera for evidence recovery, and lift bags to help bring up heavy items. It was noted the dive teams utilize the dry suits for protection of unknown bio hazards. The suits include a full face mask that helps prevent contamination of divers.
Another important piece of equipment is their underwater communications system built into the safety ropes, allowing communications with those on the boat and shore. This allows for quicker response in locating whatever is being searched for. Nethaway pointed out, however, their training includes a lot of redundancy. “If the electronics fail, we do it the old fashioned way.”
“All equipment is intertwined with each other (department),” said Bucher noting this makes response quicker and more efficient.
Warsaw Dive Team also has a unique equipment vehicle. A reconditioned bus, worked on by dive team members, is outfitted with compartments for equipment and a unique tank holder built by Warsaw Community High School students in the welding program. This holder allows divers ease of putting on and removing the dive tanks. Both the interior and exterior of the bus has been coated with gator hide for damage protection and easy cleaning.
The agencies have been training together for the last few months and train four hours once a month regardless of the weather. Their training is based on training provided by Dive Rescue International for first responders.
Bucher and Nethaway noted the dive teams are not just for the recovery of a drowning victim. The teams are utilized for crime investigations, property or evidence recovery and retrieval of sunken or sinking vessels.
Currently there are three divers from the sheriff’s office, six from Warsaw Police Department, and nine with Warsaw-Wayne Township Fire Territory, plus a number of support staff members.