ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — When someone is lost or missing in Alaska waters, time is of the essence, but one life-saving piece of equipment used in those situations is out of commission. To help fill that gap, the nonprofit Alaska Dive Search Rescue and Recovery Team is now trying to raise money to replace it.
Jeremy Lilly is the president of the Alaska Dive Search Rescue and Recovery Team. It's a volunteer group he started in 2016 that relies entirely on donations, and now the group is asking for the public's help to replace a broken side scan sonar. It's a piece of a equipment that's critical in a search and rescue or recovery mission.
"A lot of the lakes and waterways we have here in Alaska, any time of the year, a lot of them are black water conditions, so there is no visibility at all depending on where you are," Lilly said. "With the side scan sonar, we pick up a lot of that information that we need during that time period. It also limits the amount of time we have to get someone out, around ice that's flowing down the river, or on the lake, or out in bad weather conditions."
The team's current device is not only broken, but it's an older, bulkier piece of equipment that doesn't present a very clear picture. The model they want to purchase is smaller, more lightweight, has larger sensors and provides a better quality image allowing them to cover a larger area in a shorter period of time, when minutes matter.
"Here in Alaska, someone can be underwater for as long as an hour and still be revived with no detriment to brain function, depending on how cold the water is, and the time of year, and the conditions of the water," Lilly said. "So if we can get on site early enough, we can get it deployed, there's a good possibility we can actually find them, especially if there's a current going on, and then we can work to get divers in the water to do a rescue or recovery."
The group has started a GoFundMe to raise the money needed to purchase the new equipment.
So far, they're $355 in to their $54,000 goal, which may seem like a lot of money, but pales in comparison to the value of a life, or the recovery of a loved one.
"Unfortunately, in Alaska, a lot of people are not found just because of the remoteness, the swift water, the conditions, and this would help try to close some of that gap with having a proper piece of equipment," Lilly said. "Because really if we can locate them, we have the tools to get them, but the hard part is actually locating them."