APD Dive Team search and recovery efforts

From search and rescue efforts to recovery, flood conditions are dangerous for first responders. The Austin Police Dive team  explains the process to FOX 7, giving us a glimpse of what they face underwater. 

The search underwater, is much different than the search above.

"It's pretty much going down there and closing your eyes and feeling around. Just kind of blindly feeling around because at Lady Bird Lake, visibility is usually a couple feet at best. Most times you get down there for a search and you're kicking up all that stuff on the bottom and visibility goes to zero, like that," says Sgt. Jeff Crawford, APD Dive Team.

Austin Fire Dive Team and EMS typically do the search and rescue phase but when it transitions into search and recovery, other dive teams are called in.

It can be quite an extensive process. Most of their dives are 25 to 30 feet deep.

"He will run the line out and he'll hold it so it doesn't extend out any further. Then they sit there and just completely go around in a circle and do a circle pattern. When they go the full 360 degrees, he'll let out another arms length," says Sgt. Crawford.

They continue circle patterns until the entire area is searched by hand.

APD's Dive Team was called out Monday night after a woman drowned near Barton Springs Pool. They were there to assist the Austin Fire Dive Team in recovering her body.

"The hardest part was trying to locate her in the first place because with the flow and the current the way it was the other night, it was very difficult to even see in there. It was basically like white water rapids," says Sgt. Crawford.

Then Tuesday afternoon a submerged truck was recovered from a pond near the intersection of SH 130 and Hwy 812, close to where a man's body was found on Sunday. APD's Dive Team was there as back up for the Travis County Sheriff's Dive Team, making sure they had all the equipment they needed to pull the truck up.

It wasn't easy.

"It's not like a nice, sterile swimming pool where everything is nice and smooth and you feel around quite easily. There's all sorts of tree branches and rocks. Everything you can imagine that's kind of on the side of the road after a big rain storm, all that is kind of washed in there," says Sgt. Crawford.

First responders ask that you take their warnings seriously because it's not just your life you're putting at risk.

"Like concrete slabs along some of the different areas of Lady Bird Lake. You can find yourself up under these little ledges and all of a sudden you're feeling up and you're under something. It can be quite unnerving," says Sgt. Crawford.

But they get great satisfaction knowing their job is at least bringing some closure to the victim's family.

"It's an important job but not the most pleasant one," says Sgt. Crawford.

APD Dive Team says they are always on call for emergency situations. They have up to 12 divers on their team ready to respond.