Not all ice rescues have a happy ending, but a dedicated group of area rescue personnel braved the icy North Long Lake waters Dec. 14 to make sure they're prepared the next time an ice emergency occurs.
Members of the Crow Wing County Volunteer Dive Team and Brainerd Fire Department Specialty Rescue Squad took turns playing the "victim," a person submerged in open water out on the ice, as the two groups prepared for a real ice rescue in a joint training exercise. A Hovercraft and a Zodiac inflatable rubber boat were used during the training.
Rescue squad members John Bennett (left) and Barry Sell helped Crow Wing County Sheriff's Sgt. Neal Gaalswyk, supervisor of the Crow Wing County Volunteer Dive Team, secure firefighter and simulated ice rescue victim Daryl Rubbelke to a back board on North Long Lake.
Members of both units were paged out on an ice rescue that Saturday morning, an exercise they knew about, but they didn't know the location until they were paged. The simulated drill tested the units' paging systems and the response times of firefighters and volunteer divers.
Sgt. Neal Gaalswyk, dive team supervisor, said the teams practiced for four hours Dec. 14. Live "victims" were used as well as a dive mannequin the dive team has nicknamed "Bob Bottom," since he sinks to the bottom of the lake. He was thrown out into about 25 feet of water for the training drill.
Joe Rubado (left) and Keith Stunek, members of the Brainerd Fire Department Specialty Rescue Squad, rescued firefighter Dave Cox in a simulated ice rescue on North Long Lake Dec. 14.
All victims, fitted with survival suits, and "Bob" were rescued safely during the exercise.
"We got Bob back. He's safe and sound and drying off as we speak," Gaalswyk said last week. "He's pretty compliant."
Gaalswyk said the dive team relies on donations to maintain its volunteer operation. They performed a nighttime drill about three weeks ago, which was their second icy practice dive this winter.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.