GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s a grisly task, searching murky lakes for drowning victims and dumped evidence.
New technology, though, could make the difficult job a little easier for first responders.
The Grand Prairie Fire Department believes it is just the second agency in the state to invest in a new military-grade sonar system to help view the bottom of local bodies of water.
“There’s zero visibility. You don’t see anything. Everything is by feel or touch,” said Assistant Chief Bill Murphy, a member of the department’s dive team.
Grand Prairie Fire Dept. dive team (Andrea Lucia – CBS11)
Above water, colleagues have used the same system for more than a decade to pinpoint where to direct divers to look, but it has its limits.
“Everything looks like a rock,” said Asst Chief Murphy.
That’s why Grand Prairie purchased its Sea Scan ARC Explorer, which resembles a small torpedo.
Lieutenant Stephen Hromcik first saw it in action several years ago.
“It was mindblowing,” he said.
His team was on its second day searching for a drowning victim, when the game wardens showed up, with the technology on hand.
“Within about 15 minutes, they had a really good image of the victim and we were able to make the recovery right away,” said Hromcik.
The department took CBS11 on a tour, where our crew got a glimpse of a truck sitting on the bottom of the lake and a sunken sailboat.
“You can tell the truck is upside down ‘cause you can see the shadow of the tires,” said Hromcik.
Compare images on the department’s old sonar system and its new one, and suddenly details become clear.
“If there was something or someone on the deck of the boat, we’d be able to see that here,” said Hromcik.
The more the team knows before divers go in the water, the more quickly and safely they can do their job.
For families of drowning victims, it could shorten the wait for answers.
“You know, at that point, there’s no hope, but you want some resolution for the family because I couldn’t put myself in that position,” said Asst Chief Murphy.