GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - New members of the Gulfport Fire Department's dive team put their classroom training to the test Monday. They took part in a rescue scenario at a pond off Canal Road; a training exercise that also had plenty of unexpected drama.
The essentials of rescue diving include things like air pressure requirements, line tender duties and smooth communication among team members. This mission was to locate a 10-year-old boy who went missing while swimming.
The unexpected included an angry uncle, panicked parent and well-intentioned neighbor who wanted to help, but got in the way.
"You okay?" asked line tender Andrew Capiola, "Feeling okay, everything's good?"
On the banks of a country pond, divers prepared to rescue a young swimmer.
"That's my nephew in that water and somebody needs to get him out right now!" said an angry uncle, who let the dive team know they were moving too slow.
"Yeah, I'm unruly! Because there's men sitting here on this bank. These guys need to do their job," said the seething relative. :All I'm saying is just wait until his daddy gets here if you think I'm mad."
Line tender Andrew Capiola must tune out the disruptions and concentrate on his divers.
"Communication with both divers at the same time. Make sure they're doing what they're supposed to be doing. Make sure they're safe," said Capiola.
Divers face black water conditions beneath the surface of the pond. Search patterns must rely on a sense of touch.
"It's really murky. You can't, you can't see anything down there. And once you start doing your search patterns and stirring the bottom up, you're better off closing your eyes. You can't see anything," said diver Chris Kangas.
"That tree, right of the light post. That's going to be the search area," the team leader directed.
As the dive team moved closer to pinpointing a location, they're suddenly interrupted by a panicked parent.
"Where is my boy? I want my boy," screamed the dad, just before diving into the pond to try his own rescue effort.
Not only does the father dive in, the angry uncle soon joins him in the water. Both well-intentioned men must be pulled out of the pond for the safety of the divers.
"We'll throw them a panicked parent or a citizen who wants to help, but isn't much help, and see how they manage those situations. Cause those things can happen in real life," said instructor Mark Hilley. "I think they did an excellent job. Part of this is to learn and make mistakes and correct those mistakes so when it comes time to do it for real, they're good to go."