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Mineral County deputies train for water rescues

by MONTE TURNER
Mineral Independent | August 3, 2022 12:00 AM

Captains Scott Dodd and Josh Pecora with the Superior Volunteer Fire Department spent a recent afternoon training deputies with the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office on the fundamentals of using Rescue Bags.

These emergency toolkits are used when a victim is in trouble in the water and needs immediate help in getting to shore.

“Since I have been employed here, we have needed to improve our response to water rescues,” said Sgt. Ryan Funke with the Mineral County Sheriff's Office. “These kits will improve our chances or river rescues. We are hoping we will also get rescue life vests and swift water rescue training in the future.”

Sometimes they are referred to as Personal Throw Bags and they come with 75 to 100 feet of rope, which is thrown from shore. It’s a special type of floating rope in a bright color to be seen easily. The bag itself has floatation pockets in it and is lightweight in terms of ounces. They are deployed as if the person was pitching a softball or bowling ball in an underhand toss.

“It’s always an interesting thing to walk people through training because you get guys who overdo it that aren’t used to the softball style. But it is a natural way for us to do things once you explain the method,” shared Dodd.

“You want to aim downstream to where they are going to be. I explain to people that it’s like bird hunting or shooting trap. You don’t aim for the person but have enough lead to where the person is going to be able to swim to it or latch on,” he explained.

Whitewater Rescue Institute in Alberton has been training the SVFD as Mike Johnston and his team are Montana’s original Swifter Rescue Instructors. The fire department personal go through the training and then have refresher courses to remain certified.

Accurate data on drowning victims in Montana is difficult, if not impossible, to find. From FWP, to the Highway Patrol, to county coroners to the Coast Guard Auxiliary to the state Medical Examiners. All departments apologized and suggested other areas and individuals to approach, but the information remains elusive.

This was verified by Dodd who has been searching for those numbers himself.

“So much is plain common sense,” he said when it comes to using the rescue bags. “Keep your cool, don’t panic and don’t let go of the rope!” Dodd smiles.

Each sheriff’s deputy now has a rescue bag in their patrol vehicles. Funke made sure that the SVFD knew how much their valuable training time was appreciated.

“We are all here trying to do the same thing, saving lives, and working as a team. If we know how they train, we know what to expect,” he said.

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