Tallapoosa County gets new sonar equipment, could help with Lake Martin search missions

Tallapoosa County gets new sonar equipment

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The call to help recover a drowning victim is never a call Alex City Rescue wants to get. But now if they do get one, the search for the missing person and closure for the victim’s family will come faster.

The department has spent the last two days training on their new Sector Scanning Sonar.

“This is a piece of equipment you hope you never have to use,” said Hal Taylor, ALEA Secretary. “In the event you do, it’s the most modern and up to date that you have.”

Before, rescue crews used drag boats to search water and sonar equipment attached to boats, but the new scanner is dropped into the water and crews on the ground have a 360 view of what’s below the water’s surface.

“It’s better than a boat sonar because it’s able to get better range and great search area,” said Lisa Brisson, Chief Hydro Engineer at Echo81.

But it’s not just scanning greater distances of water, so crews can quickly narrow down a search area. It also provides a better picture of what’s under the water.

“It assists divers in finding drowning victims - especially when it come to murky conditions,” said Brisson.

Rescue Officials say having this device could have helped a year ago when crews spent days on Lake Martin searching for a drowning victim.

“We had a fatality last year. We stayed on this lake for six days,” said Ed Bailey, Tallapoosa County - Alex City Rescue Squad.

Crews were eventually able to get this type of sonar equipment from officials in Daphne in water at Lake Martin and find the victim quickly.

“In three hours time we were able to locate the person,” said Sheriff Jimmy Abbott.

Not just closing the case, but giving an anxious and grieving family closure.

“You have the traumatic experience they’re going through," Abbott said. "The emotional trauma they go through.”

“Hopefully with this equipment that we have will help in less time in recovering any type of evidence or bodies,” said Bailey.

In addition to helping locate bodies, the sonar equipment can also help locate crime scene evidence that may have been tossed into the water and determine if a bridge located above water is still structurally sound.

Multiple agencies, including the sheriff’s office, Alex City Police, Alex City Rescue Squad, and the Alex City Fire Department will be trained on the device.

The equipment was purchased from a partial grant from the Department of Homeland Security, Tallapoosa County Commission, Russell Lands, Alexander City, and ALEA.

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