Cape Girardeau Diving Team
By: CJ Cassidy
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO --Some Cape Girardeau firefighters took their training to a whole new level today; underwater! The Cape crew owns four underwater suits, bought with money donated by a Scott County couple.
Bruce and Sonja Westrich gave the Cape Girardeau department about $5,000 from their 13-year old son's life insurance, after his drowning death a year ago.
Firefighters say the money came in just in time to help create a much needed diving team in the area.
"We have had drownings in our area, and the only resource we have in Southeast Missouri is the Water Patrol," Hardly enough, Asst. Fire Chief Mark Hasheider says, for a region surrounded by lakes and rivers.
Before, the fire crew only had three certified divers. Now, that number goes up to eleven, increasing the chances of someone surviving, in the event of an emergency.
"In very cold water, a very young person can be underwater for a period of time and still survive," Hasheider says.
That's why crews take their training so seriously. Before the trip to Mermet Springs, they put in hours of practice at Cape's Capaha Pool, preparing for all kinds of possibilities.
Still, first time divers like Jimmy Long, call the experience more challenging than battling flames.
"Getting used to breathing underwater, and getting over the mind concept of it is tough. It's not normal," Long jokes.
However, members of the new diving team hope the underwater world becomes as familiar as a fire call.
Fire crews plan on helping with any rescue or recovery efforts on the water.