Pinellas County making investment in water rescues, other Tampa Bay area counties are not

10Investigates: Why some counties are training for water rescues and some are not

When you look at Florida, the state on a map, what do you see? Water. It's everywhere.

What else is everywhere? Cars.

When one of the cars went into the water with a woman inside, 10Investigates looked into the time it took the fire department to arrive on scene. 10Investigates discovered the firefighters were not trained for water extractions.

After the incident, Pinellas County stepped up and fire departments like East Lake, Clearwater, Madeira Beach, began training their officers for water extractions.

The county has also allocated $60,000 this year so more departments can be equipped.

"It takes fair amount of time to get dive teams deployed even if dive team is right next door. To deploy and configure usually takes a lot. So, this is just another tool,” said James Fogarty, Bureau Director of Safety and Emergency Services for Pinellas County Florida.

However, other counties such as Polk County, where a man died after his truck went into a pond, are not.

Records 10Investigates obtained from the rescue show that while two heroic firefighters tried to locate the truck in the water, they could not. After about 20-30 minutes, the rescue attempt from Fire Rescue employees was terminated. The rescue and recovery efforts were then carried on by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office dive team.

“Water rescue is handled by the sheriff’s department. We just don't have call volume to justify cost to do that. We just don’t have the services,” said Mike Linkins, Deputy Chief with Polk County Fire Rescue.

It's not just Polk County fire rescue who are not trained. Neither is Venice Fire, which was the department to first respond to the van with two people inside that went into the water at the South Jetty.

The chief there told 10Investigates that the department use to have a dive team, but they no longer do because of budget cuts.

The training though is something both departments say they will examine. Polk County fire says especially if more cars go into the water, but it is extremely rare.

To equip one dive, it costs around $4,000.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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