Gulfport dive-rescue team searches for 'missing swimmer' - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport dive-rescue team searches for 'missing swimmer'

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Gulfport fire department's dive-rescue team spent the morning Wednesday in training.  

Ten firefighters are working toward their certification as rescue divers. The training scenario involved a missing 10 year old swimmer at a small pond off Canal Road.

"Heard him yelling. By the time I turn around, I just seen him. He barely went under, he was a ways out there," said a firefighter posing as the "uncle" of the training session "victim."

Time is critical to locate and save the missing swimmer.

As the dive team scrambles, the "uncle" gets agitated.

"You all think you can find him, or what?" he said, loudly.

"We have to make a quick assessment of what's going on and figure out the best course of action to take in order to effect that rescue and hopefully get somebody up and save them," explained trainer Mark Hilley.

Within minutes of arrival, the first diver is in the water.

"You don't go down until my safety diver is sitting in the water, waiting," instructed the line tender.

Just as the search for the boy gets started, an unexpected interruption. The panicked father arrives.

"Are you crazy?  I told you to watch him! You all need to get in the water and find my boy right now!" yelled the fireman, playing the role of "father."

As the dive team continued a methodical search, members are forced to contend with the well-intentioned, but interrupting parent.

"I can't believe you ain't found my boy!" screamed the dad.

"A panicked parent on the surface, trying to help you. That's endangering your diver and endangering your whole operation," Hilley calmly told the team leader.

The divers face their own special challenge, feeling their way along a murky bottom.

"You turn the lights out, that's what it's like. Swimming in the dark. You've got to rely on your search patterns and the guys on top to keep you safe," said diver, Ryan Carter.

The line tender's role is critical.

"He's the most important guy in the whole thing. He's responsible for keeping track of that diver and making him safe. As I said, the diver can't see anything, the tender is his eyes above the surface," Hilley explained.

Nearly an hour into the training exercise: recovery.

"This is training. This is as real as it can get without putting somebody in danger," said Hilley.

Ten members of the Gulfport dive team took part in this week's certification training. Six of the firefighters are new to the team; the other four are getting re-certified, something that's required every three years.

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