Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles

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Crozz with ROV  md -1031"If we had the VideoRay, the recovery effort for both Evan and Stone could have been successful within the first week of their tragedy." - Bethel Search & Rescue

BETHEL, Alaska - A VideoRay Pro 4 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) equipped with BlueView V-130 multibeam imaging sonar was used extensively during an underice drowning victim recovery on Alaska's Kuskokwak Slough. Bethel Search and Rescue (BSAR) organized the search to locate and recover two suspected drowning victims who went missing after an ATV crash in December. ROV assistance was provided by VideoRay consultant Tom Crossmon.

Before Crossmon arrived with the VideoRay Pro 4, BSAR had spent more than 5 weeks searching unsuccessfully. Within 4 days, the Pro 4 located George Evan in about 46 feet (14 meters) of water and about a quarter-mile (.4 km) downstream from the accident site.

Evan, along with Ralph Demantle and Sally Stone, disappeared on December 11, 2014 while traveling from Bethel to Akiak, AK. Demantle was recovered soon after the disappearance, but Stone has yet to be found. A snowstorm forced BSAR to suspend the search on January 24 after 45 days, but they hope to continue searching for Stone later this year. 

The search for Evan and Stone was hampered by poor weather and challenging water conditions. Water visibility in the Kuskokwak Slough was only about 8-12 inches with the camera, but the sonar provided an additional 62 feet of visibility. The VideoRay ROV was equipped with 260 ft of tether which, coupled with the sonar's range, allowed the search team to cover 320-foot distances at once. "We are covering so much area in a short amount of time compared to the old method of dragging bars," said BSAR volunteer Perry Barr. BSAR member Norman Japhet agreed, "It is not easy work but it is pretty easy from what we are used to ...[the VideoRay ROV] makes it so much easier and faster."  

Crossmon and the BSAR team were joined in the search effort by SAR volunteers from Kwethluk, Akiak, Akiachak, Tuluksak, Napaskiak, Nunapitchuk and Atmautluak. Though Crossmon originally planned to stay for 5 days, he decided to extend his trip by 4 extra days in order to provide as much help to the search team as possible.

After seeing the Pro 4 in action, BSAR has decided to purchase their own VideoRay ROV system to support recovery efforts in the entire Yukon-Kuskokwim (Y-K) Delta. "BSAR has learned valuable lessons [about] the value of current technology which can greatly reduce the time and labor spent in body recovery efforts," said BSAR president Mike Riley. "If we had the VideoRay, the recovery effort for both Evan and Stone could have been successful within the first week of their tragedy."

BSAR hopes to acquire a VideoRay Pro 4 ROV and sonar in part through government funding and private donations. For more information on how to support BSAR's letter writing campaign or to donate, visit their website at http://kusko.net/bsar/

Located about 400 mi (640 km) west of Anchorage, Bethel is the largest of 56 villages on southwestern Alaska's Y-K Delta. Home to 25,000 residents, the Y-K Delta covers 50,000 sq mi (129,500 sq km) stretching from the Bering Sea to the Yukon, making it one of the world's largest deltas. There are virtually no roads in the Y-K Delta, so travelers must rely on "ice roads" and an extensive network of snowmobile trails during the winter. Alaska has the nation's highest rate of unintentional drowning deaths, many of which occur in the Y-K Delta. BSAR reminds everyone to take the utmost precaution when traveling, especially during the winter months. Safety and survival tips are available on their website.

VideoRay extends our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of George Evan, Ralph Demantle, and Sally Stone.

Click here for more on VideoRay ROVs for Search & Rescue/Recovery (SAR)

NEWS ARTICLES:
Success on Day 42 - Kuskokwak Search(via Bethel Search & Rescue)
Second missing person recovered from Kuskokwim River (via KTVA CBS 11 News)
SAR team recovers one with the help of underwater video camera (via The Village Telegraph/Delta Discovery)
BSAR needs your support for underwater camera (via The Village Telegraph/Delta Discovery)

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