Underwater Search and Rescue

Underwater Diver Jumping into water

The Underwater Search and Rescue Team is a specialized unit of Deputies and Officers 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 Correction 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 Certification.

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 Dive Master Sergeant Joseph Surace of the Sheriff’s Correction Division.

  • Oneida CountyUnderwater divers in water 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.