Oak Bluffs dive team practices with realistic drill

Divers simulate a rescue from a submerged vehicle. — Photo by Steve Myrick

The Oak Bluffs fire department dive team staged an elaborate drill on Sunday, simulating a rescue from a car submerged at the end of the Steamship Authority ramp in Oak Bluffs.

Members of the dive team jumped into 48-degree water not knowing where the vehicle was, or what they would find.

Divers had to use underwater navigation skills, and handle a specialized tool to break the vehicle windows, a very difficult task underwater.

The divers successfully located the submerged mini-van, and simulated the rescue of a trapped driver.

Acting fire chief John Rose said that this year, the 12-member dive team got all new gear, at a cost of about $3,300 per diver. The team also includes 10 support staff.

“For years up until this year, the divers used to have to buy their own equipment,” Chief Rose said. “Our dive team became inactive: it just cost too much money. We spent a lot of money on outfitting the divers. The town is funding it now.”

Chief Rose said all divers on the team have already completed more than 100 hours of training. The training includes deep water and night diving, as well as extensive classroom instruction. All the divers have achieved both basic and advanced certification from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). He said his goal is to have the entire team certified as rescue divers, the top level of certification.