A pond behind the Jackson County soccer complex turned into a simulated crime scene Wednesday. That's where the Gautier Fire Department held underwater search and recovery training.
The certification training will more than double the department's dive team
"Pull the rope out tight," directed the rope tender from the bank.
"Drop straight down and continue your line. We'll walk it out to the bottom. You should find this one," he said to the man in the water.
A diver-in-training searched the bottom of the sand pit for a hammer. The hammer represents a handgun tossed by a criminal into the pond.
"Main thing we're trying to teach them right now is do their search patterns. And when they do them, they keep their line tight. If they keep the line tight, it lets them know they did every sweep the way they're supposed to," said team leader Vance Cochran.
Longtime fireman Marshall Robinson says working by feel underwater is every bit as challenging as fighting fires.
"Get to the bottom. Keep one hand on the pattern in the middle of you. And stay crawling. It's not swimming, it's crawling on the bottom," Robinson explained. "It's absolutely team. Diving is not for one individual. It's for multiple individuals. And it's great we have such a large number of people in the fire department to make up a team."
That team includes a diver in the water and a rope tender on the bank. The rope man keeps the diver safe and helps direct a successful search pattern.
"Got the hammer. Good job Ray!" said a teammate from the bank.
"It's pitch black. It's pitch black. Darker than being in a bedroom with the lights cut off, that's for sure. Just feel your way and hope you don't grab an alligator turtle or something," said Kelly Tuck.
Gautier now has four people on its search and recovery team. This certification training will mean nine additional divers.
Along with Wednesday's training, the team has already completed deep water and night diving exercises in Florida.