LAKEWOOD, Colo. – Water rescue teams in Colorado have to navigate roaring rivers in the summer and icy lakes in the winter to rescue people, animals and vehicles from the water.
“Typically we train once a month on dive calls, different scenarios such as a car in the water or a plane in the water. Pattern searches for evidence or bodies,” West Metro Fire Rescue diver Lt. Shane Erosky told FOX31.
While West Metro has never had an underwater operation as challenging as the one happening in Thailand, Erosky says diving in those dark and dangerous caves have some similarities to dives in Colorado.
“One of the most challenging aspects of SCUBA diving in Colorado is the fact that it’s almost always near zero-visibility due to the bottom profile of the lakes that we have here. They have silt and soft sand which makes basically it’s like diving blindfolded,” he said.
His team relies on tension ropes to help guide them underwater when they cannot see. Divers in Thailand are using the same technique in the pitch-black cave. He says those conditions are not ideal for beginner divers, let alone children with no dive experience.
“So it can get very claustrophobic feeling just due to not being able to see so it’s challenging even to people who’ve been experienced divers,” Erosky said.
The overseas rescue of the Thai soccer team involves actual tight spaces too. Dive teams in Colorado rarely have to deal with tight conditions, but technical rescue teams often deal with confined spaces.
“Cave rescues do occur and mine rescues do occur in Colorado,” Erosky said.
In December, a teen had to be rescued from Jefferson County after his climbing rope snapped. He fell 100 feet down a mine shaft. It took West Metro about two hours to rescue him.
The children in Thailand and their coach are stuck 2.5 miles inside the cave, more than one hundred times the distance of the mine shaft rescue.
“In the situation they are in due to the fact that it’s in a cave it’s extremely unique. It’s combining a technical rescue call a dive call a confined space call all into one which makes it an extremely difficult call,” Erosky said.