Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Underwater Criminal Investigation


Jack Zaengle writes to mention the web page Underwater Criminal Investigation at www.crimescenedivers.com .

The following article was written about one of their searches:

WASHINGTONVILLE - Searchers spent a grueling day Saturday looking for a
missing Danville man presumed drowned in Lake Chillisquaque, but failed to
find any trace of Justin Seidel.

Washingtonville Fire Chief Gary Roberts said searchers began scouring the
lake shore at daybreak Saturday and dive teams were in the water from about
9 a.m. until the search was called off about 3:30 p.m.

Mr. Seidel was canoeing on the lake with two friends Thursday when the boat
overturned, dumping all three men into the water of the 165-acre man-made
lake at the PPL Montour Preserve in Anthony Township, Montour County. The
other two men, Matt Swank of Bloomsburg and Sean Sidler of Danville, were
rescued Thursday night and taken to Geisinger Medical Center. They were
treated for hypothermia and released.

As cold as it was Saturday, weather forecasters are predicting that it's
going to get even colder, so the search crews probably won't be out looking
on the lake again for several days, the fire chief said.

Wade Lytle, captain of the Sunbury Fire Department dive team, said that
eight divers from the squad were spending roughly 15-minute shifts in the
bone-chilling and ink-black water Saturday searching by hand for the missing
man's body.

"In terms of visibility, it was minus-zero," Mr. Lytle said.

The water temperature was about 34 degrees, but the air temperature was
about 20 degrees. So the divers had more trouble handling the cold above the
water than they did underwater.

Dogs brought in by the White Deer Search and Rescue team had given strong a
indication they'd found some scent, so divers concentrated their efforts
near that portion of lake, Mr. Lytle said. The water was between eight and
15 feet deep where the divers were searching. But scattered across the
bottom of the lake in the area of Saturday's search are a series of
so-called porcupine cribs, wooden structures that provide shelter,
protection and additional benefits for fish. When searching, the diver will
drop an anchor, and then move in a circle around the fixed point while tied
to the anchor by a rope. The diver swims in increasingly large circles until
the 75 feet of rope has played out. In this way, the searcher will cover
about 150 feet of area during each dive, Mr. Lytle said. Those efforts were
slowed Saturday because the ropes used by the divers were getting tied up in
the porcupine cribs and in some cases, divers found themselves swimming in
the middle of those structures, he said.

The search Saturday was all the more challenging for the divers because it's
another in a recent string of water accidents in which the 24-member dive
team has been called out to try to recover victims.

"That's the biggest issue," Mr. Lytle said, adding that fire department
officials couldn't recall a period in which the dive team had been called
into action as often as it has been in the last four months. "The guys are
getting stressed out. It's like having another job that your getting called
out to all the time, but you don't get paid. It's taking a toll of the guys
and on their families."

The dive team was just a portion of the roughly 75 searchers who were at the
lake at the PPL Montour Preserve Saturday, Chief Roberts said. Members of
the Washingtonville and Valley Township fire companies were at the lake all
day, Chief Roberts said. The Danville Area Red Cross provided food donated
by a local doughnut shop, PPL provided catered food and the Washingtonville
Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary provided food for the volunteers as well.