Dive team recovers evidence, victims
When handgun bullets in a homicide case are dumped into the Sugar River, the dive team searches for the evidence.
When burglars dump an ATM machine into the water, divers find it and pull it out.
The nine-person dive team goes out four to six times a year to collect bodies and evidence in water across Rock County and beyond, said Deputy Adam Scott, dive team leader. They also are called to rescue potential drowning victims.
The team has been around since 1980 and has three regular boats, an airboat for ice and a small boat to transport gear, Scott said.
Divers have assisted agencies in Fort Atkinson, Green County, Lake Mills, Beloit and other places, Scott said. The majority of their work is evidence recovery, although they have recovered the bodies of fishermen, snowmobilers and suicide victims.
The team recently participated in a training exercise on Lake Koshkonong simulating a pontoon boat versus a fishing boat crash. Divers were practicing a water rescue with several other fire departments and law enforcement agencies. Divers were searching for two bodies in the form of dummies.
It was getting dark, with the sun dropping behind the tree line and the moon rising on the opposite side of the lake. The water was murky and muddy.
Deputy Curt Streuly stood at the edge of the boat, leaned back and plunged into the water.
He was wearing an orange and black dry suit, a facemask and a breathing apparatus. He had an oxygen tank on his back and weights around his ankles. A rope tethered him to the boat.
Streuly began a search pattern with hopes of finding a body. He moved back and forth, going away from the boat. He had communication with another deputy, but he couldn’t be seen. Air bubbles rose to the surface.
He felt a dummy.
“It actually brushed the back of my body,” Streuly said. “Once I felt it, I just reached back with my hand.”
He and another deputy swam the dummy back to a boat. The body was then brought back to shore.
“It’s like finding a bad guy,” Streuly said. “You’re finding a victim.”
Correctional officer Tim Mauerman, the assistant dive team leader, said the biggest challenge facing the dive team is unclear water and current.
“You can only see a couple inches in front of your face,” he said. “The best way I can try and explain it is it’s like searching in a pitch black room, except it’s 10 feet under water.”