After an initial investigation by the St. Cloud police department, a specific section of the river was defined as the most likely location of Mr. Radel. The St. Louis County Search and Rescue Team began searching the river with their VideoRay February 7. The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department Volunteer Rescue Squad, based in Duluth, has developed a stellar reputation in Minnesota for professionalism and persistence in searching for drowning victims, using VideoRays equipped with Tritech’s SeaSprite scanning sonar to probe murky water in swift currents. Their VideoRay Pro 3 was recently upgraded to “Greater Thrust Option” propulsion, which allows it to work in exactly the kinds of conditions they encountered in this search. In sections of the river the current exceeded three knots, a speed which makes any kind of underwater search difficult and hazardous.
The investigation was followed on and off as ice conditions allowed until February 15, when the St. Louis County team located Scot’s baseball hat in the trash racks of the 10th Street Dam 1.4 miles downriver from the point in which footprints believed to be Scot’s lead to the river. This search was done visually with the video camera on the VideoRay, using the SeaSprite scanning sonar to navigate around the trash racks. The location of the hat pointed to the conclusion that Scot most likely fell into the river. Hazardous conditions and unstable ice on the river prevented additional searching at that time, and some feared that the search would not be able to continue.
When the ice re-formed, the St. Louis Team was asked once more to assist. They developed a plan to search as soon as schedules could be coordinated, and donations of time and equipment could be arranged. Dave Phillips, the Undersheriff of St. Louis County, and Tom Crossmon, the captain of the Rescue Squad, worked the phones and developed a plan using both proven technology and new multi- beam sonars from BlueView Technologies. Contributing to a planned search on March 1st through 3rd were the St. Cloud Police and Fire Departments, the Stearns County Dive team, VideoRay, and Deep Development of Abbotsford, BC, Canada. VideoRay and Deep Development donated equipment and employee time, and the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department Volunteer Rescue Squad donated even more time to the search.
The plan was to use a grid of holes to search with the BlueView multi-beam sonar on a pole harness. The BlueView images would be used to identify targets, which could be further investigated with the VideoRay. The scanning sonar on the VideoRay would assist in both navigating the unit, and finding each target. By mid morning the plan was coming together, with the BlueView planned for operation in the afternoon and the first holes for VideoRay deployment cut.
However, the search ended when the body was located much earlier than anyone could anticipate. Brett Kolb, a 20 year old technician and customer support representative from VideoRay, was sent primarily to bring an additional VideoRay unit and repair units if needed. However, he was operating a VideoRay that spotted the body of Scot Radel just a few hours into the search.
The VideoRay unit was anchored to Mr. Radel’s clothing with a manipulator until a member of the Stearns County Dive team could enter the water to retrieve him. Before the body was removed from the water, the VideoRay was used in a coordinated effort to provide all the in-situ forensic information possible.
This is the latest of several drowning victims that have been recovered by St. Louis County’s team in the last two years, and shows once more that tireless volunteer effort, careful planning and execution, and the right underwater technology can bring closure to the families of victims without unnecessary risking of injury or death on the part of the search team.
VideoRay is the global leader in Micro-ROV technology. The VideoRay is an 8 pound underwater remotely operated vehicle. VideoRay now has far more Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) in service around the world than any manufacturer, and is delivering additional ROVs at an increasing rate. Weighing just 8 pounds and starting at $5995 USD, VideoRays can be equipped with sonar, positioning systems or other accessories, and are used for underwater surveys, offshore inspections, search and recovery, homeland defense, science, fish farming and a range of applications in underwater environments. In August, the General Services Administration (GSA) awarded VideoRay a contract to supply vehicles to the US government, making it easier and faster for many agencies to acquire one. See http://www.videoray.com/GSA for more information.
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