Last Seen

In an emergency your first response can change everything

Last night’s search for a person that fell from a vessel and failed to resurface in Lake Huron was postponed and our dive team returned back to the docks near 1:00 AM. We searched a very large area of the Lake with divers and with sonar long into the night. Two things were once again highlighted in this event.
First, Life Jackets Save lives. We have never recovered an individual wearing a PDF, and even more so when the water temperatures are this cold (~50°F), please wear your your PFD.
Secondly, we cannot stress how important a Point Last Seen (PLS) is in any search and recovery effort. In the event of an emergency where an individual or object enters the water it is important to, first if you have a GPS unit on board, save a waypoint as soon as possible. This may seem obvious afterwards or to a panel of Facebook responders, however, in an emergency moment sometimes these simple steps escape your mind. We must train ourselves and those who travel with us in ways to keep our passengers safe. Secondly, think last scene point. Mark the last scene point based on objects from a minimum of three fixed points. For example, I was here, I saw them enter the water there, and they were X feet from this (stationary object) and X feet from that (stationary object). Unless you don’t move and are stationary that last seen point will ‘look’ different when you return to it. Having fixed points to reference give a better ability to re-triangulate the location as search and recovery crews show up.
Contrary to what many people believe, even with our swift currents in the Blue Water Area an individual in the water is most of the time located within 50-100’ of where they entered the water. As a search and recovery team on a rescue time is always against us and a great starting point is critical to saving lives and bringing your loved one home.
We want our community safe and with the best opportunities to enjoy our waterways. We’re thankful for your help with that.
Update: The individual was recovered, however, the location we were given to search in the emergency hours was a long way from where the individual actually entered into the water. This affirms again how important an accurate Point Last Seen is in our search.
Matt Graham
Chairperson Dive Team Auxiliary, St. Clair County, Michigan
Search & Recovery Diver and Tender