MFR weighs in on what it takes to pull off diving operation

Updated: Jul. 10, 2018 at 8:12 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A diving crew in Thailand had to go three miles into a cave, swimming through narrow passages, and sometimes essentially rock climbing underwater to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach. The story that's swept the nation caught the attention of Montgomery Fire/Rescue.

"You can't really train for something like that," said Sgt. Devon Otwell. "All you can do is prepare as much as possible for as many adverse effects that you can imagine."

MFR has 50 trained divers. Otwell said they dive two times a week, training in zero-visibility situations and swift-water conditions, like at the Riverfront or in the Coosa River. During the drills, they're also practicing rescue and recovery.

"We try to prepare for as as many situations as possible," Otwell said. "Once you get to the scene, you just gotta adapt and overcome whatever you're faced with out there."

Otwell said diving is one of the most dangerous recreational sports there is.

"Then you add in elements like cave diving, diving in zero visibility, stuff like that. It's just unimaginable putting those kids through that in a limited time like they did," Otwell said. "Something like that comes around, all you can do is see what you're faced with and adapt and overcome to the situation at hand until everybody goes home."

Since there are no caves in Montgomery, officials haven't made cave diving a part of MFR's training. When swimming or going anywhere with water, Otwell said to always wear a life jacket and never go alone.

In regard to the Thailand operation, officials said it would take an average of about 10 hours for divers to make it to the boys, get them set up, and guide them back the nearly three miles to safety. At one point, the divers were underwater for three hours.

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