Agencies take part in ROV trainingIt was back in December 2011 when the body of drowning victim Darrin Ackerman was recovered from the Jamestown Reservoir using a remote operated vehicle (ROV) that was brought in 350 miles east of the city from Duluth, Minn.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
It was back in December 2011 when the body of drowning victim Darrin Ackerman was recovered from the Jamestown Reservoir using a remote operated vehicle (ROV) that was brought in 350 miles east of the city from Duluth, Minn.
Due to a lack of resources at the time, the recovery of Ackerman’s body took a total of eight days.
Now nine months later, the Jamestown Fire Department and Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office have begun training to use the JFD’s very own ROV purchased for $87,000 in June and delivered to the fire hall earlier this month.
“This is an unbelievable piece of equipment, and it’s such a great thing for our local agencies to be able to have here in the event something ever happens like that again,” said Jim Reuther, Jamestown fire chief.
Reuther and JFD Training Officer Sheldon Mohr are taking part in a three-day series of training this week along with the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office and representatives from the Burleigh County Sheriff’s Office, Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Office and a Minot-area dive team in order to have region-wide capabilities for operating the ROV.
“We’ll have it stored in our facility here locally, but having those outside agencies that we can call upon to assist helps out tremendously,” Reuther said.
Having other officials participating in the training will allow for agencies across different parts of the state to utilize the ROV technology, according to Tom Crossmon, an instructor based out of Duluth who is conducting the training.
“There’s typically a cost-sharing or reimbursement system that different counties within a state would use, so that, for example, Jamestown taxpayer dollars aren’t paying for using the ROV in another North Dakota town,” Crossmon said.
Purchasing the device was not originally in the plans for the Jamestown Police and Fire Committee as of one year ago, but a fundraising effort led by Ackerman’s longtime partner Leanne Buckley eventually led to city approval of purchasing the ROV from Pennsylvania-based VideoRay LLC in June.
More than $24,000 brought in by Buckley’s fundraiser in addition to a $63,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security paid for the ROV.
“It’s an expensive piece of equipment, but well worth it. You really can’t put a price on what this could potentially do for us,” Reuther said.
The efforts to bring this device to Jamestown have impressed Crossmon, who aided in the efforts here to recover Ackerman’s body in December.
“These have just been some unbelievable efforts in this community to purchase this device and it’s our hope that no family would ever have to wait even close to eight days again in the event something tragic like this happens,” said Crossmon, who has also served as captain of a search and rescue team in Duluth since 2003.
Crossmon is leading training participants through a series of three days’ worth of exercises and instruction.
“Yesterday we spent half the day in the classroom and half the day in a pool learning the basics. Today we’re out here on the reservoir with some more real-life application of the device,” Crossmon said during Wednesday’s training, which took place from a dock on Jamestown Reservoir.
The third and final day — taking place this afternoon — will consist of more training out at Pipestem Dam, during which time the group will take a boat out and seek to locate a car that was fully submerged following an accident in 1982.
“After these three days, I’m going to feel comfortable when I leave that these men are more than capable of utilizing this device properly if a situation was to occur,” Crossmon said.
The ROV itself is one of a total of four components in addition to a camera, sonar device and what is called a manipulator arm, which would be used to retrieve and ultimately bring up anything the ROV were to find.
The ROV can be used in several different areas as well, with Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Kaiser explaining how his department could use the device for possible evidence retrieval.
“That’s a huge asset for us to have that capability,” Kaiser said. “That sonar is impressive and that’s really going to help a lot in the event we need it.”
The sonar is capable of scanning any given area and showing anywhere from 60 to 70 feet in front of the device. Once the ROV operator hones in on the target, the camera then usually has capabilities of showing what’s in front of it from 6 inches up to 1 foot.
The ROV is equipped with 500 feet of tether to release into the water and is capable of being used under ice as well in open water situations. It can handle the pressure of being submerged as deep as 1,000 feet.
“What’s most useful about a tool like this is the fact that you don’t have to put divers into the water,” Crossmon said.
Reuther said he hopes to train in more department members in the future, and eventually move into advanced training courses down the road.
This is only the second ROV in all of North Dakota, according to Crossmon, with the other being part of Valley Water Rescue in Fargo.
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at email@example.com