February 2008

The Anguish Of Recovery

The Lifeless Body Of A Child Is Never Forgotten

By Mike Wallace

Superstition Search & Rescue

When things go wrong in a water activity, they have the potential of going horribly wrong. In 2007 Superstition Search and Rescue dive recovery team had over a dozen missions.

Two of these recoveries severely impacted memory and emotions. Two boys drowned in two separate water incidents both of them in canals. Understandably, the associated anguish felt by divers involved in this type of recovery is long lasting.

This past month we received a call out for a 5-year-old missing boy. Our dive team spent a sad afternoon searching for this child.

There is no reverent way to describe a water recovery. Each one is graphically imprinted in our minds. The men and women who removed the lifeless body of this little boy from the water will be affected for many years.

Defining the emotions that one feels in this type of situation is difficult. This is a solemn moment filled with sadness, anger, and questions.

Anger that a child was hurt. Questions why and how this could and was allowed to happen.

The youthful hunger for fun and adventure brought this little boy to a dirt slide on the embankment of a canal. He was allowed the opportunity to play unattended in this location on many occasions. We can all be angry about such obvious neglect.

I would hope that we all would analyze our own responsibility as guardians.

Is it any less irresponsible to have children in a boat or around water without personal flotation?

Is it any less irresponsible to flex your horsepower and fly down a boat-infested lake with a child on board?

Or worse, is it less irresponsible to consume alcohol as the captain of your ship when a child is one of your passengers?

I would like all of us to re-analyze all our water-recreation habits. Dive recovery can be painful. The sight and the memories of a child lifeless and drifting underwater is disturbing and very difficult.

Not as difficult though as the anguish of being responsible for the death of that child. I beg you as a father, and rescuer, please be overly safe when it comes to children and water.

DIVE AND RECOVERY -- Although shown here is just a practice session, the actual missions of the Superstition Search & Rescue dive recovery team are too often heart-wrenching. In 2007, SSAR had over a dozen missions, too many with tragic endings. As Mike Wallace states in his article, "Dive recovery can be painful. The sight and the memories of a child, lifeless and drifting under water, are disturbing and very difficult."