Local Divers Empathize with Crews in Minneapolis

Local Divers Empathize with Crews in Minneapolis
By: Crystal Britt

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - As the recovery effort for victims in the Minneapolis bridge collapse continues, dive teams here at home know a little about what those crews up north are dealing with.

Members of the Cape Girardeau Fire Department's dive team mainly handle situations on lakes and ponds, rarely on the Mississippi.  That's mainly because they don't have the people or the resources.  So if tragedy struck here, Cape Fire couldn't handle the problem alone.

It's unpredictable territory and the mighty Mississippi can be a dangerous place.

"You've got to deal with the current," said Captain Brad Dillow with the Cape Girardeau Fire Department. "It's going to be near zero visibility, you'll be left feeling your way around."

Captain Brad Dillow empathizes with the crews searching the water beneath the collapsed bridge in Minneapolis.
"With my experience being out on the river, it's going to be a long drawn out process.  It's something you don't want to rush into.  It's unfortunately recovery at this time," he said.
If an unfortunate incident happened in the Heartland, like at the Bill Emerson Bridge, the Cape Girardeau Fire Department would immediately respond, but would need help and quickly.
"If that was to occur here, it would be beyond our scope of capabilities," Dillow said.
They only have about seven to eight people on the dive team and Captain Dillow said they need more equipment and training.
"We could put at least seven boats in the water, including some inflatables we have, but it would stop at that point," he said.
They did just get a boat which has newer equipment on board, like radar/sonar technology.
"We could determine what's underneath there, we could see a car, whether there was a body on the bottom of the river," Dillow said.

They used this system last winter to rescue two hunters who got disoriented in the fog.  "Our visibility was probably 30 to 40 feet in front of the boat, and we ran entirely off radar and GPS," he said.

Now, as all eyes are on rescue efforts in Minnesota, crews back home hope this never happens here.