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Water Rescue - Alantic Ocean - Ocean City
Thursday, August 21, 2003

On August 21st, 2003 the Millville Dive Team was requested to assist the US Coast Guard Station Ocean City with the search and recovery of a recreational diver whom had not surfaced from the ocean ten miles south of Ocean City Md., and approx three miles east of Assateague VA. Rescue 84 responded first with Chief Scott (8415) along with two divers and two tenders. While enroute to the Coast Guard Station which is located near the Ocean City Inlet at the most southern part of town, units were advised that the diver had been part of a group that had been diving in around 50-60 feet of water at a wreck site. The diver was last seen about 30 minutes ago and it was apparent that this would be solely a recovery incident. Upon learning the updated information, Dive Captain Dill requested that all units stage at the Coast Guard Docks so that a Dive Profile could be created with the rapidly developing information being obtained by Maryland DNREC whom was on the scene. On arrival to the Coast Guard Station, divers moved needed equipment to the docks, which included BC set ups2, gear bags, weights, ropes, safety vests and rehab gear. Ocean City Emergency Services assigned Paramedic 2 to accompany the Millville Divers on the recovery as rehab and medical control. After gathering information from agencies already on scene and verifying that this was a recovery only, a Captain of the Ocean City Tow Boat US firm offered to use his vessel as the dive boat. Divers, tenders and Paramedics boarded his vessel and proceeded to the scene. 8415 Scott established 84Command and maintained contact with Ocean City Communications, Sussex EOC and Coast Guard Station Indian River. Once units arrived on the scene and made contact with the original dive boat and speaking to their dive master it was determined that the diver was surfacing to a drift line off of the back of the boat when something happed causing him to drop out of site of his buddy diver. The victim apparently did not drop his weights in an emergency accent or inflate his BC to assist him in surfacing. The Tow Boat US Captain moved the dive vessel to the wreck site where the divers had been positioned over and set the anchor. Four Millville Divers entered the water in two teams, descended to 60 feet and started two separate search patterns using wreck reels as their guide. On the boat were four other divers whom were suited up and readied as a RIT team. Both teams searched an extremely large area for 20-25 minutes before surfacing for rehab. Visibility for the first dive was a 1-2 feet at best. After having vital signs assessed as well as EKG's, divers reviewed their search pattern and attempted to judge tides and drift. Information from the original dive vessel was that the rescuers were drifting slightly away from where the victim was last seen, so a new position was set and divers again readied to enter the water. A commercial/recreational fishing vessel that was in the area assisted by using an underwater sonar to attempt to identify underwater objects that were "not normally" at the wreck site. An object was identified by the Captain as being irregular and Captain Dill assigned the first team entering to investigate that sighting. On the second dive one team entered the water and focused on searching the wreck itself, where the unfamiliar object was seen while the second team again started a search pattern using a wreck reel to gauge distance. The water cleared for the second dive and visibility was much better at 8-10 feet. After another frustrating 20-25 minutes, divers again surfaced with no luck in finding the missing diver. Due to the time of day, depths, tides, water temperature, lack of additional tanks and large search area that needed to be covered, the search was suspended by Millville's team. Two days later a large group of technical divers from the Chesapeake Virginia area were hired by the victims family to start the search again. After researching the site, tides and drift, several divers entered the water and eventually located the victim's body. Units responding; Rescue84, 84-11 with Dive Trailer, Utility 84-12, OC Paramedic 2, USCG, Md. DNREC, Tow Boat US. The Millville team would like to thank all agencies involved for their assistance and support during the incident. Ocean recoveries are truly the toughest ones due to all of the variables involved. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victim's family for the loss of their son.