Recently, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team took advantage of the unusually mild weather to practice. In accordance with a Sheriff’s Office press release, divers visited White Star Quarry in Northwest Ohio on October 23. This popular destination is one of the few in the state that offers a clear water environment for scuba divers.
Divers can test their abilities in a safe environment with a variety of underwater structures, machines, vessels, and obstacles. Divers were able to investigate and dive around sunken vehicles by going down to depths of between 30 and 50 feet. According to the news release, it’s critical that divers are ready for all circumstances or settings in which they might be needed.
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The only law enforcement dive team in the county, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team is made up of nine individuals from various professions. Eight divers are currently active and all are certified SCUBA divers. According to a press release, the dive team’s main duty is to assist with water safety at neighborhood activities while also recovering victims and evidence.
As a Law Enforcement Dive Team, the department said it specialized in finding and gathering evidence. The dive team keeps in touch with regional organizations as well as other teams, including state and federal institutions, to help with logistics. The diving team’s origins may be traced to Sheriff Edwin Cunningham in the 1960s, according to Lake County Sheriff Frank Leonbruno, but its appearance, professionalism, and training have changed significantly since then.
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Leonbruno noted that the dive team is made up of both certified divers from Lake County who are not law enforcement officers and full-time sheriff’s deputies and correctional officers who are good divers. According to Leonbruno, the diving crew practices dive operations in open water on Lake Erie, nearby rivers, ponds, and artificial water retention facilities.
Nearly all diving operations are carried out in low visibility using feel to find the target. Gravel or rock, big concrete chunks with entanglement risks, deep silt, submerged trees, and other man-made impediments can be found in the bottom conditions. “We use cutting-edge equipment throughout training and operations to assist in successfully and safely executing the mission,” Leonbruno added.
The dive team uses the Lake County Marine Patrol’s Marine One and Marine Two to reach places that are inaccessible by foot, the sheriff continued, starting with transportation. A primary search location on a dive site can be established with the aid of side scan sonar and eyewitness testimonies.
Dives can communicate with other divers and the surface while wearing complete face masks and dry suits, which protect them from the weather and damage. Such specialized gear is meant to promote safety and reduce injuries.
The county diving team has also helped with safety sweeps of the Fairport Pier for the Tall Ships events to make sure the ships would not experience damage while docking, as well as local canoe races and triathlons, according to Leonbruno.
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