by Cori Hilsgen
The St. Joseph Lions and St. Joseph Y2K Lions both recently donated to the Stearns-Benton County Dive Team to help fund the purchase of a Side Scan Sonar.
After hearing of the need for funds, the St. Joseph Y2K Lions members voted unanimously to contribute the proceeds of their recent brat sale to the effort. Their donation was $1,728.82.
“It’s a very important piece of equipment and it will help the community,” said Y2K president Kay Lemke.
The St. Joseph Lions donated $1,000. Immediate past president Lion Joe Bechtold said he likes to refer to the equipment as the “little sub.”
“We thought it was a worthwhile project and it is good to see so many organizations taking part,” he said.
The Stearns-Benton Dive Team launched a fundraising drive in March to purchase the equipment. The unit and associated equipment can cost up to $100,000. So far, the team has received more than $10,000 in donations from various sources.
The dive team consists of licensed deputies from both the Stearns and Benton county sheriffs’ offices who give their time and service as an extra-duty assignment. The team, which has operated for more than 30 years, consists of many certified divers who respond to water emergencies across the two counties, often at a moment’s notice.
The mission of the team is to rescue when possible, but to always bring a lost person back to their family even in situations of a loss of life.
The dive team’s current equipment is not adequate for bodies of water that contain a lot of debris and obstructions, or murky waters such as the Mississippi River. In rivers, it can be very difficult to search the waters depending on the time of year, water levels and the current.
Some of the most experienced operators of equipment such as the Side Scan Sonar may be hours away and it routinely takes as long as 24 hours to send a unit. This time spent waiting can be heart-wrenching for those who are waiting to find missing family or loved ones.
When drownings are not witnessed, it can be difficult to quickly and accurately define and search areas where victims may be located.
The Side Scan Sonar is pulled by a boat and remotely operated with a video screen. The new sophisticated technology of the equipment can see into the depths of rivers and lakes and through dark muddy water such as in the Mississippi River. The Side Scan Sonar can map the bottom of an entire lake in a few hours and produce real-time images for rescuers to see and evaluate before risking the safety of divers in fast moving or murky waters.
Anyone who wishes to donate to the effort to fund a Side Scan Sonar, should contact the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office at 320-259-3702 and ask to speak to Lt. Bob Dickhaus.