Sonar training and demonstration held at Silver Lake, Wautoma
On Aug. 4, there was a sonar training at the Wautoma Firehouse and a demonstration on Silver Lake in Wautoma. Those who attended learned basic information on what a dive team does when someone has drowned and they need to recover the body. Those departments in attendance were the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office, Town of Marion Boat Patrol, and Wautoma Fire Dept. Civilians were also welcome to watch the training session. When a dive team has to go into recovery mode to retrieve a body, there are many steps put in place to ensure time is well spent and everyone is kept safe. The first thing that happens is if there is a witness, they will point out to a diver where they saw the body go down. A buoy will be placed in that spot. The pontoon boat, which typically only holds five people, will start doing a figure-eight pattern over the area where the person went down. As they do this they are creating grids and using the sonar to locate the body. When the sonar picks up where the body is located, dog cages with attached ropes will be dropped near the location with the goal of them landing six feet away from the body. This is done so the divers can follow the rope and easily find the body without using up too much bottled air. When the divers go down, they always have a rope tied to their wrist so they can signal to those up on the boat; there is a code for what a certain number of tugs on the rope means. The sonar machine can be a bit difficult to understand for those who are new to it. Most of the screen was an orange color, but the fake body that was used for the session was identifiable only by a long black blob on the screen. When Jayson Steuck paused the screen to point out how he knew that figure was the body, it became easier to see the head, shoulders, and torso. The body also gave off a slight shadow, which Steuck said was useful to the dive team, because the longer the shadow the farther away the body is from the ground. Sometimes logs and other items are mistaken for a body, especially if they are covering a larger area of water. This training session was important for future cases where drownings may occur. Similar measures were taken in the Green Lake drowning back in May. The first time this sonar was used was during this drowning, so this technology is still relatively new to the county. This session was treated as if it were a real case.