Search and Recovery in 15 minutes in Kentucky Lake
It started as a routine and repeated operation for Southeast Louisiana Underwater Search and Recovery, a group formed by a Retired Slidell Police Officer Mark Michaud with help from another retired Slidell Police Officer Roy McCann, from Slidell, Louisiana. They have made about 14 trips since April 2014, at the request of the family of Clarence Holmes, a boater who went missing during a storm nearly four years ago, to find his remains. Since Laurel Lake was created by flooding forested land, the bottom is a treacherous landscape of trees, branches, and other debris with depth in the search area of 160 feet and water about 40 degrees year round. This year they had sought the assistance of well-known underwater search and recovery expert Tom Crossmon, of Crossmon Consultants in Duluth, MN along with his specialized underwater search technology.
As they were setting completing the search for the day around dark and heading to the Holly Bay Marina, they noticed flashing emergency lights in the dark at the swimming beach area. They then reached out to Whitley County Emergency Management Director Danny Moses and his team, along with Laurel County Emergency Director Abby Hale and local fire, EMS and law enforcement personnel. The team was about to begin a search for another drowning victim - Zachary Anderson, a 21 year old father who had attempted to swim across the lake earlier in the day and succumbed to the cold. After discussion of options, Crossmon and Mark Michaud, the leader of SELURC, offered to do a search of the most likely location of Mr. Anderson with a VideoRay Pro 4 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) equipped with a BlueView Technologies V130 sonar (www.videoray.com), and the Humminbird 360 sonar which Michaud had adapted for use as a scanning sonar by adding 140' of cable and a tripod. Though the water visibility was about 5 feet, the sonars could "see" almost 100 feet in the dark, cloudy water. The Holmes family had provided a 24-foot pontoon boat – a excellent work platform in this environment -and Danny Moses accompanied Crossmon and Michaud on the initial search.
While underwater searches can take days – or years – in this case a number of factors combined to make the search – and closure for the family – very short. Inside of 10 minutes the body had been located with sonar from about 40 feet away, resting on the bottom in 26 feet of water. Crossmon expertly grabbed an article of clothing with the claw on the VideoRay underwater robot, and the remains were gently tugged to the sub-surface, then handed off to Michaud who was in the water and put aboard the fire boat manned by local fire personnel.
Mr. Moses was very impressed with the speed and safety of this search and recovery.
Mark Michaud provided details of the operation: "While Tom searched with the Videoray, Roy McCann tended the tether. I used my Humminbird 360, and we simultaneously observed the target. I followed the ROV for a moment and saw he was headed to the target. Once contact was made with the victim, Tom was able to bring him to the boat where I was able to secure him, in water, and turn him over the local personnel. Our search at Laurel Lake s into our third year. With the help of Arnold Holmes, Clarence Holme's father and our boat operator, this search lasted around 15 minutes. When we saw the emergency lights Arnold Holmes immediately turned the boat toward towards them to offer assistance. This selfless act helped another family avoid the nightmare that the Holmes family has suffered."