Duane and Colleen Dalquist watched through their pickup window as members of the Trident Foundation used high-tech camera equipment to search the bottom of Virginia Mine Pit Lake for their daughter, Erika Dalquist.
The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department has searched Virginia Mine Pit Lake with sonar equipment and underwater cameras, but the 189-foot deep pit proved to be too deep for divers and the equipment to work properly. The Trident Foundation joined the search Monday with their aquatic investigation equipment.
"We're acting as an extension of the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department, expanding the search area (with better aquatic equipment)," said R. Scott Romme, founder and executive director of the Trident Foundation.
A six-man team from the Colorado-based Trident Foundation brought two Remote Operated Vehicles to the site. ROVs carry small, motorized cameras that move along the bottom of the lake, recording everything it sees under the water. Romme said the ROVs are similar to the cameras used to explore the S.S. Titanic after it sank. The ROVs are controlled by a joy stick and are connected to a small TV-type screen so people can see what the camera is seeing.
A tethered rover relayed information from the bottom of the Virginia Mine Pit lake to a screen Monday.
"Why send a diver down under the ice when we have technology to do it for us," Romme said.
The Trident Foundation is a non-profit organization that travels around the country helping authorities investigate tragic situations, such as the Erika Dalquist case.
William Gene Myears was arrested in connection with Dalquist's disappearance and has since been released. Myears led authorities to believe Dalquist is in the Virginia Mine Pit Lake. Dalquist was last seen Oct. 30 in downtown Brainerd near Tropical Nites bar.
The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Dive Team searched shallow portions of the lake while sonar and camera equipment were used to search deeper parts of the lake. All searches came up with nothing.
R. Scott Romme (left) of the Trident Foundation talked with Colleen and Duane Dalquist, parents of Erika Dalquist at the Virginia Mine Pit Lake Monday. Their daughter, Erika, has been missing since Oct. 30 when she was last seen leaving a downtown Brainerd night club.
When local authorities have done all they can, the Trident Foundation and its equipment bring light to tough situations.
"That mom and dad in the truck over there (referring to the Dalquists) is the reason we're here," Romme said.
Romme started the Trident Foundation 12 years ago. He has recruited nearly 70 people from all over the country including firefighters, trauma surgeons, divers and police officers to help with aquatic rescue missions.
"Some of these guys are here on their vacations. Why are they here? They're doing this for a sense of community," Romme said.
The Trident Foundation will assist the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department with the investigation all week.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.