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Vernon Search and Rescue receives equipment donation to speed up water searches

Click to play video 'Vernon Search and Rescue says equipment donation will make water searches faster' Vernon Search and Rescue says equipment donation will make water searches faster
WATCH: There are drowning tragedies that happen in Okanagan lakes every summer. Now Vernon Search and Rescue has received a handheld scanner to help it find victims faster. – Feb 15, 2021

Vernon Search and Rescue (VSAR) has received a handheld scanner to help it find people lost in local lakes faster.

Every year, VSAR is dispatched on water searches.

The new equipment is expected to help the search and rescue volunteers bring search subjects to medical help or give their family closure.

“It’s a type of sonar, but rather than a sonar where you have to figure out what you’re looking at, it has its own analytics software to scan the area. It will actually bring an ‘x’ up where it thinks there is a body,” explained search manager Trevor Honigman.

Read more: Province announces new SAR funding, urges British Columbians to stop being idiots

It’s a step up on the technology the group was previously using for underwater searches.

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“Before we would use a type of sonar, almost like a fish finder sonar, and it’s not as accurate and it takes a long time to search an area,” said Honigman.

“This unit allows us to get to an area where we think a victim is and narrow down that search area really very rapidly.”

Read more: Search crews recover body of presumed drowned man from Okanagan Lake

Fellow VSAR member Brad Kiggins donned a dry suit to demonstrate the device in the icy water of Okanagan Lake on Monday.

Holding the fluorescent box by its handle, he slowly moved it back and forth underwater to scan an area of the lake covered by ice.

The results show up on a digital display on the top of the scanner.

Click to play video 'Experts urge caution on ice as Okanagan residents flock to partially frozen lake' Experts urge caution on ice as Okanagan residents flock to partially frozen lake
Experts urge caution on ice as Okanagan residents flock to partially frozen lake – Feb 15, 2021

Kiggins said the company behind the device donated it to Vernon Search and Rescue because they serve an area with lots of lakes.

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The search and rescue crew will be giving the company feedback on how the device works in the field.

While VSAR hasn’t needed it for a search yet, the trial runs have gone well.

“It’s much faster than trying to do a boat rescue that we’ve done in the past. It [was] just long boat searches without any knowledge of where the subject is,” said Kiggins.

“This actually gives us the coordinates of where that person might be.”