The Underwater Search and Rescue
Team is a specialized unit of Deputies trained in underwater investigation,
search and recovery skills. The Team conducts search and recovery operations
for lost or stolen property, crime evidence and impediments to navigation.
Top-water and underwater rescue skills are utilized frequently, and
unfortunately, so too are underwater drowning victim recovery techniques. Team
members have conducted successful underwater investigations for sources of
pollution and hazardous waste.
The Underwater Search and Rescue Team is comprised of personnel from the
Sheriff’s Correctional Division, Patrol Division and Marine Unit. Dive Team
members conduct water training throughout the summer and coordinate their
efforts with the Sheriff’s Marine Patrol when called upon to recover submerged
property or conduct search and rescue missions.
Dive Team members receive regular training throughout the year, which is
designed to maintain a satisfactory level of diving knowledge and skills. The
training includes courses in Night Diving, Underwater Search & Recovery and
Underwater Navigation. Courses including Self-Rescue, Diver Stress, Diving
First Aid, Emergency Management and CPR are basic requirements for Rescue Diver
Dive Team members train with an underwater communications system that is
intended to provide enhanced coordination between divers and shore support. A
diver’s ability to communicate with personnel on shore provides an enhanced
level of safety for personnel who are called upon to conduct the tedious and
sometimes dangerous task of searching the murky waters of county lakes, rivers
and canals. The Team frequently trains with and utilizes custom-built dive
sleds, which provide divers an efficient means to search large areas of water.
Sheriff’s Office Dive Team members are often called upon to assist other area
police agencies with underwater searches for evidence or missing persons.
The Sheriff’s Dive Team members work under the direction of Lieutenant John L.
Allen of the Sheriff’s Marine Unit and Divemaster Deputy Joseph Surace of the
Sheriff’s Correction Division.
Oneida County wholly contains a dozen navigable lakes and
reservoirs, and borders and has jurisdiction over half of Oneida Lake; the
largest lake entirely within New York State (eighty sq. miles of surface).
The Barge Canal (formerly the Erie Canal) transects the county from
east to west.
The Mohawk River, Oriskany Creek, Fish Creek and West Canada Creek
are just a few of the numerous creeks and streams throughout the county.
Hundreds of ponds; some navigable, many nearly empty, are
located within the county.
White Lake, Town of Forestport, with a depth of seventy-five feet,
is the county’s deepest body of water.