People are often defined by life-changing moments.
Some of these moments emerge from tragic and devastating circumstances.
Commercial diving is much more than just vast oceans, big machines, and great adventures.
Commercial divers are heros.
But being a hero requires courage. Braving difficult situations. A willingness to sacrifice. And doing it all with empathy.
A River Tragedy
A group of commercial divers recently faced one such incident after a couple drowned in the Sacramento River following a deadly car crash.
On March 26th, 2019, the California Highway Patrol reported that a semi had collided with a tow truck on the U.S 50 Bridge which connects Sacramento and West Sacramento.
The incident forced the tow truck off the bridge and into the river.
Inside the tow truck were a husband and wife.
Officials immediately began scouring the river for signs of life.
Fighting Against Mother Nature
Unfortunately, strong river currents and water temperatures of around 50 degrees made rescue efforts futile.
Rescue efforts turned to recovery the following morning.
However, due to strong river currents, more than 4 feet per second, police divers were unable to even locate the truck, let alone recover the bodies.
In fact, it took officials 6 full days to even locate the truck, despite it being close to the bridge.
The police stated that they found the truck using sonar about 39 feet down, approximately halfway across the bridge.
However, once again, strong river currents made it too dangerous for the police divers to investigate further.
Anguish Turns To Frustration
The family soon became frustrated by the failed efforts.
“This had been very hard because it has been going on three weeks. There is no closure, there’s no funeral. And we shouldn’t have to wait that long to get bodies,” said Poonam Nair, a cousin of the missing couple.
Days soon turned into weeks.
By April 10th, authorities still had not formulated a plan on how to recover the bodies.
Grieving Family Finds Answers With Commercial Divers
Unable to retrieve the truck and bodies from the river, official turned to a private commercial diving company.
A team from Global Diving and Salvage immediately dispatched a barge and divers to the scene.
On April 11th, the Yellow County Sheriff’s office announced that they had found the body of one of the victim’s floating 5 miles downstream.
April 12th saw the arrival of the commercial diving recovery team.
As soon as they arrived, the recovery effort began.The team worked through the weekend, until, on April 14th, it was able to raise the truck and finally bring closure to the family.
Commercial Divers and Recovery Operations
This tragedy highlights the need for highly trained divers when it comes to difficult recovery operations.
Despite their training, police divers are not trained to cope with the kinds of conditions that commercial divers are.
A typical commercial diver is trained to operate at even deep depths, use a wide variety of underwater equipment – including electric power tools such as welders, and cope with dangers such as strong currents or underwater obstacles.
Because they are well equipped to work in extreme water conditions, commercial divers are able to undertake dangerous underwater recovery operations.
Every day, commercial divers somewhere around the world are engaged in valuable recovery operations.
And while not all involve the recovery of bodies, each operation has its own set of unique challenges.
Other Recovery Operations
A recent, well-known underwater recovery operations was the salvage of the wrecked Costa Concordia.
This massive cruise ship was just 11 years old when its Captain ran it aground off the coast of Isola del Giglio in Italy.
The ship capsized and sank in just a few hours, resulting in 32 deaths.
A Long Process
The salvage operation took over 2 years before the ship was towed to scrap.
Divers and salvage teams worked 24/7.
During the early stages, divers were used to assess the damage and recover all the missing bodies.
As the recovery progressed, divers moved attaching the ballast tanks that would allow the ship to finally refloat.
Delivering Aide, Bringing Hope
Other salvage dives may require helping those living in the midst of devastation.
One diver, Spenser Wigston, a graduate of Divers Institute of Technology, traveled the vein of tragedy following the 2017 hurricane season.
Spenser was one of the first divers to arrive following Hurricane Harvey passage through Puerto Rico.
“When we arrived at the airport, people were standing outside asking for food,” he says.
“There were women with children [who] were not able to feed or bathe them. The island looked like a bomb went off.”
Spenser worked with team that allowed relief efforts to begin.
Doing What’s Necessary, Not Easy
Divers are often face-to-face with tragic and devastating circumstances.
It’s not an easy job.
But their presence and the relief they bring has a long-reaching impact. One that extends beyond the money. Beyond the physical impact.
It’s a job that brings hope, comfort, and relief to those in some of life’s most trying times.
Commercial divers fulfill a vital role in recovering people or items that would otherwise be lost forever.
Though it is difficult for any diver, no matter how well trained, to recover bodies, these highly trained professionals take great satisfaction out of being able to help families find the closer that they need.
Aran Davis, Writer for Water Welders
May 1Learn More