The third time may be a charm for the Seneca County Water Rescue Team. After years of trying to organize a team, the idea has finally taken hold.
Jan Samoriski, a master scuba diver and a member of the team, said interest in the team re-emerged last summer after two people drowned in the county.
"There was no team that could respond to a situation like that," he said. "There were divers in the county, but there wasn't a team."
Rescuers remove an accident victim from the water during a recent training exercise.
Seneca County Water Rescue Team divers and support personnel from Clinton Township Fire Department practice a search and recovery scenario at the Bascom quarry during a training session. Dive master Kevin Lyman (right) assists divers Dave Kirian and Jan Samoriski.
Samoriski, who also is a firefighter and paramedic, said he and other firefighters from Bascom put a call out to divers in the county to spark interest in forming a team.
Now, after a year of existence and with support and leadership from the Seneca County Firemen's Association, the roster has grown to 28 members.
The volunteer-based team, which is made up of firefighters and EMTs, has eight certified divers, Samoriski said.
Samoriski, who has been diving for about 20 years and also has been active in other dive search and rescue teams, is among several divers on the team with experience.
"The core group of divers is pretty experienced," he said.
Although the team hasn't been dispatched to a scene yet, monthly meetings and training have prepared it for several scenarios that could happen in or around a body of water.
"We train for something that we hope we never have to do," Samoriski said.
Training sessions can be held in the classroom or on location at various quarries, rivers or ponds.
Some of the team's training sessions include a talk from a law enforcement agency about evidence recovery, a dive at the Bettsville quarry and a swift water training session underneath the Huss Street bridge in Tiffin.
If a situation arises, the team would be dispatched by a fire department, the sheriff's office or another law enforcement agency.
"We're a county resource, much like a hazmat team. We come in when requested by a department or entity as a resource," he said.
Divers on the team use their own dive equipment, but the team hopes to have funding in the near future to assist with the purchase of equipment.
Although divers are an essential part of the Seneca County Water Rescue Team, a lot of other jobs remain.
"The most important person on a search and recovery team is the tender," Samoriski said. The tender, a person who tends to the diver and is connected to them by ropes, is just one of many support people on the team.
"Divers are the secondary part of it," said Kevin Lyman, a Clinton Fire Department firefighter and a dive master on the Seneca County Water Rescue Team. "The personnel on land are eyes of the divers. As a diver, I'm not an important person, the tenders are. If it weren't for them, I'd probably be in more danger than anyone else."
Lyman, who has been diving for five years and has had close to 80 dives, said outside support also is important for the team.
He said he hopes that support will facilitate grants to help purchase equipment and a trailer to haul it.
"The more support we get from them, hopefully the more support we can get in grants and donations," he said.
Samoriski said interest and support from the county has made the team grow immensely in the last year, and new members are always wanted.
"We started with just a core group of four or five. Now there's a lot of interest," he said.
"The reason why the team has been really successful is because of all the support we've gotten from the county," Samoriski said. "Without those people, we probably would have not gotten that far. There's a lot of support behind us."