Challenges divers face during water rescues in Colorado

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Water rescues can happen during any time of year in Colorado. Colorado Springs Fire Department has responded to 17 rescues this year but has only had two recovery missions including the recent one at Rampart Reservoir for a missing paddleboarder from Sunday.

“There is a lot more control of a stable body of water like this, but the bigger it gets and the deeper it gets then it obviously makes it more difficult for us,” Lt. Curt Crumb said.

CSFD Dive Team had two crews respond to Rampart Reservoir. On Tuesday, CSFD Dive Team held training for new recruits at Gold Camp Reservoir.

“Anytime cold water is better for us, harder on our people, but better for our victims,” Lt. Crumb explained. “Anybody that would go into cold water is a better scenario than warm water, the body shuts down a little bit but we have a better recovery time.”

The altitude plus how cold the water is needed to be taken into consideration when searching for a victim.

“Our water is always considered cold on its warmest day this water is 74 degrees which isn’t terrible, it’s comfortable to swim in on a hot day but when you are under the water for 20-30 minutes that is sapping your heat energy,” Lt. Crumb added.

Visibility is their number one challenge in the water. CSFD uses a sonar device to help them search.

“That last known or last best guess location is our best information that gives us a starting point,” Lt. Crumb said.

Rescuers don’t have a set time limit of when a rescue turns into a recovery mission.

“Dive rescues is one of the things that you know that it may be days and days and days of searching before you find someone,” Lt. Crumb said. “It’s not like searching a house so it’s difficult its obviously not what we want we always want the best outcome, of course, we wouldn’t like to have a victim up there.”

They encourage people to wear a life jacket or personal floatation device (PFD) no matter their skill level in the water.

“When you are 180 feet of water and a half-mile out from shore that is a whole different, it’s not an easy swim,” Lt. Crumb added. “It’s never a great mental feeling when you are looking for a body, we obviously like what we do and we want the best outcome but it’s never a good mental feeling looking for a body whether it is in water where it is difficult to see or a room full of smoke that we stumble upon.”

CSFD is on standby in case the dive team will need to be sent back to Rampart Reservoir to help with the recovery effort of the missing paddleboarder.

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