Side Scan Sonar Search & Recovery

Bruce’s Legacy is a 501 (C)(3) volunteer organization providing emergency assistance, education, public safety awareness and search and recovery operations for drowned victims to provide resolution for families.

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Alaska Search – day six

Today’s search was short due to the holiday. Because of the colder temps we were able to get back to the search site by truck and made for a shorter trip. Today’s search provided no new clues.

This being my last day and leaving without the closure I wanted to provide is tough to swallow. Having to fly into such a remote location and not able to bring my ROV would have made a big difference.  When I come into these type of search’s I come in to help the local authorities to bring them more technology. Sometimes I may not agree with everything but I do have to respect their decisions and beliefs.

Bethel SAR group are an amazing group of individuals. They are excited about the new technology I have shown them and with the support that they have here I believe that they will someday have the equipment that they so desperately need.

The warming fire

The warming fire

Cook tent

Cook tent

Base camp

Base camp

Alaska Search- day five

Today we got an early start and headed to the local airport. Ravn Airline graciously donated two trips to fly 7 of us and all my sonar equipment to Kwethluk. This is the smallest plan I have been in yet. The bad part was that I was flying in the dark I could not see the beautiful landscape.  We then went to the Kwethluk Safety Building and met with Max Olick. He is an unarmed police officer, fire chief and EMT for the village for 30 years. He has been ahead of the operation once we get to the search site. He and the rest of his villagers have been very good to me. We then loaded up our gear on snowmobiles, ATV’s and sleds for the 30 minute ride. I jumped on with Perry and soon found that our sled had no rods on the skies making it for an interesting ride because all the snow is gone and everything is glare ice. I have never been a good back seat driver but after the second time down the ditch and back over into the other side I started to gain some confidence in Perry’s driving. The ones behind us got a charge out of this.

Once on site they got started on expanding the search area down river. I have had my targets on my sonar each day and feel that they have been moved around by the dragging operation. We set up my office in the back of the Argo 8X8 machine which worked out really well. We soon found the first target but not the second. This is when we decided to do something that I believe has never been done for body recovery. I had called L-3 Klein, manufacture of my sonar and talked to the head engineer about my under the ice search. He had told me about the military flipping the sonar upside down to get images of the underside of ships. So before I left WI I ask Bob Carpenter who is one of Bruce’s Legacy’s volunteers to make me a bracket that would allow us to fly my 4′ long torpedo style sonar under the ice. This would allow us to view anything that was laying just under the ice shelf. After a few passes and some adjustments we got an amazing image. Now this was late into the day and the weather was changing fast. The snow started to fall and it was getting dark. The days here are way too sort here. It is not light until 10 am and is dark at 5 pm. We once again had to leave.

While packing upthere was some talk about not coming back out because of being New Years Day. I was pretty sick about this and asked if some of the locals were coming back. They said they would and would be will to help me. They offered a place for me to stay at the village. I did have a couple of the young guys from the Bethel SAR that have been my direct helpers that said that they would as well. I did decide to travel back to Bethel with the SAR team where we ate and had our debriefing. A lot of the team members that could not go for the day search would always come for the debriefing to find out about the days events. Once I showed them the sonar image from today and talked about some ideas that we could try I sparked a bunch of interest. I believe we will have a good crew for our New Years Day search.

These guys are into the 20th day of this search. They are plan wore out. There is so much work put into this kind of remote search. Their families haven’t seem much of them  through this. With the important holidays I hear about them having kids home from far way schools and these guys have not been home much. This has been tough on them all.

Kwethluk

Kwethluk

Kwethluk Public Safety building

Kwethluk Public Safety building

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Our ride to Kwethluk

Our ride to Kwethluk

My new buddy Max

My new buddy Max

Alaska Search – day four

Day four search was canceled due to the unsafe travel conditions. The 22 mile ice road is covered with a lot of water. I never knew that there is no roadway to connect many of the city and villages. There only ground transportation route is by the river system. In the summer it is by boat and winter it is by vehicles on the ice. Supplies are brought in on the river or flown in. This explains the high prices for everything here. All the villages have an air strip for travel.

I have spent most of my time traveling with retired Trooper/tour guide Perry Barr. He has been sharing his Alaskan heritage and I’m learning so much about a state that I only heard of its beautiful landscape. He invited in his home, introduced his family and shared so many keep sakes with us.

We dropped Sonia off to the airport for her flight home. Sonia had offered to come up from Canada to help out in our search. She has her own Medical business with extensive experience in wildness survival.  She paid her own way to help out Bruce’s Legacy in our quest to give closure to these people involved. A big Thank You and it was a pleasure to have her here.

Another local SAR member that goes by Mano stopped by this morning. He is an airplane mechanic for the State Forestry Dept and helped arrange for us to bunk up at their facility. He showed me pictures of his family and shared how he get his firewood to heat his home. They travel by boat to an area where they cut dead dry trees (they float better). Leaves them in long lengths and lays them in the water to form a barge around his boat.  He then lays smaller trees crossways and nails them with long spikes to hold everything together.  He is then able to maneuver this down the river. He was also proud to say that hunting and collecting firewood was a family event. With three daughters and one just married he is hoping that his next two sons in law are a strong as his first. His knowledge has been so beneficial to my success each day we have ran into the hurdles out at the site.  He is an amazing man!

Just when I was worried that I was not going to get out on the site, the Bethel SAR reached out to the Alaska State Troopers to fly a few of us and my equipment to the nearest village. Then we will be taking snowmobiles to the site.

The rivers are our worst areas to conduct underwater searches. There is so much debris from years of falling trees in the water. These make for snag areas and difficult areas to search. Then you have the current that can move items down river. Then add near 0 visibility to this and try to locate and object. Now throw a shelf of ice over all that and add cold, rain, snow and wind.

I hope tomorrow will be the day!

I just found out that they have given me the nick name of "The Wizard of Oz" as I travel around in my office.

I just found out that they have given me the nick name “The Wizard of Oz” as I travel around in my office.

We were told that it was tradition, your first time on the river you need to rub snow on the top of your head for safe travels on the ice road. All were standing around and a with a lot of laughs. I then got the feeling I had been had...

We were told that it was tradition, your first time on the river you need to rub snow on the top of your head for safe travels on the ice road. All were standing around and a with a lot of laughs. I then got the feeling I had been had…

The day starts with a briefing  at the Bethel SAR

The day starts with a briefing at the Bethel SAR

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Alaska Search- day three

The day starts with a home cooked meal at the SAR Headquarters followed with a briefing. With all the rain from overnight and yesterday made for a skating rink everywhere. Loading gear I found that I don’t bounce as well as I used to. They were able to come up with an ice rescue sled so I could set up my office on it and get back into the area that I was the first day. Ice has been deteriorating with the warm temp and rain. The 22 mile ice road trip is now like a flooded road with water as deep as 6″ and took much longer to get out to search site.  Today is the 17th day and it is taking a toll on the SAR team and volunteers. Many have been taking off of work with some getting sick I hear.

I set up my gear on a device that is normally used in thin ice rescues. We have one on our team back home and have recently set that one up for this type of search but have not had the chance to try it out yet. We were lucky to have the local fire department loan us theirs for the day making it much safer to get back into the area of interest.

I have not posted a lot of details out of respect for the families and all involved. But the word is out and feel I can give a bit more. We did locate three possible targets on day one. They have put drop cameras to verify the two targets. Now what you may not understand is the difficulties that they are challenged with. This river has created two to four feet of slush under the ice. I have made over a 100 dives under the ice in lakes and rivers and have never encountered this. This slush makes it difficult to work with drop cameras and the drag bar method that they are using. These people run fish nets under the ice and are accustomed to working with lines and such under the ice. I have learned a great deal from all of this. I’m confident that they will be successful in their mission. You have to understand that this has to be one the toughest type of recovery operation one could encounter.

The support I have received from everyone here and back home is exactly why I keep doing this. The Alaska State Troopers have graciously allowed me to stay longer by pushing back my flight so I can see this through.

The ice road now has 2-6" of water on it

The ice road now has 2-6″ of water on it

One of the SAR team heading out on their ATV

One of the SAR team heading out on their ATV

Villager working with the drop camera

Villager working with the drop camera

My office for day three with the team looking over my sonar data

My office for day three with the team looking over my sonar data

Bethel's SAR member Mark pulling me over the ice.

Bethel’s SAR member Mark pulling me over the ice.

I kneel on this looking down onto the computer screen. This worked out very well.

I kneel on this looking down onto the computer screen. This worked out very well.

 

Alaska – day two

Reviewed the data from day 1 search provided some areas of interest. We met at the Bethel SAR Headquarters with a home cooked meal and a briefing. Headed out to the search site which take close to an hour on the ice road. We have been so fortunate to have Perry (a recently retired Alaska State Trooper) transport our equipment. I’m learning a great deal about the local culture and find this an amazing area to live. Upon arrival of the search site and meat up with more villagers, each day begins with a briefing followed by a prayer.  I have had many of the local searchers jump into the trailer (my ice office) to view the images as we are being pulled along the top of the ice.

Today we had a man bring out a four wheeler to plow off the snow and this provided a much smoother surface, allowing for much clearer images. We were able to work a much bigger area. The bad part was the ice near the open water where I needed to be is becoming unsafe because of the rain and warming temperature.  With each hurdle we have had here these guys keep coming up with ways around them and make it happen for me. Their determination to find these members of their community are truly amazing.

The wind blew and it rained most of the day and well into the night. The ice road on the way back to Bethel is now covered with water. Tomorrow search brings yet more hurdles from the weather. The forecast for day three is for more rain.

For more info you can check out http://kusko.net/bsar/

My ice office being pulled buy a new track machine.

My ice office being pulled by a new track machine.

I believe these guys will cut a slot all the way to the Behring Sea if I asked the too.

I believe these guys will cut a slot all the way to the Behring Sea if I asked them too.

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Showing some of the local SAR team what I see on the sonar

Showing some of the local SAR team what I see on the sonar

Alaska – Up date of day one

Started off with a home made breakfast served at the Bethel SAR followed by a briefing. Traveled 22 miles down river on the ice road to the search site. Met by the local villagers that were already working on clearing ice. I would guess we had around 100 people throughout the day helping. We where even visited by the local State Representative and his wife that also was involved in the approval for our travel reimbursement. Now I don’t believe we would see that in our lower 48. Had many challenges to work through. They had to clear more ice off for us to use the trailer that we used for keeping computer equipment warm. We hung the sonar off the back of trailer down through the ice to be towed by a four-wheeler 3-5 mph. It was to bumpy to get good images and them one of the villagers suggested the large sleds they had they put under the tires which worked out very well. As we ran into other hurdles trough out the day the locals always came up with a way to fix it. It was truly an honor to work with these people as we jumped many hurdles today. We worked into the dark then packed up for the 45 minute ice road trip back to Bethel. When we arrived back at the headquarters they had a potluck supper laid out with many dishes. I happen to like fish so I fit in well and enjoyed. I will review what we have for images tonight and make a plan for tomorrows search.

Ice road to search site

Ice road to search site

Search Site, ariel photo

Search Site, ariel photo

Search site

Search site

Bob's ice sled put to the challange

Bob’s ice sled put to the challange

Bob's ice sled at work

Bob’s ice sled at work

Sonia Clark from Canada and Alaska State Trooper Wood. He was my point of contact to make this happen.

Sonia Clark from Canada and Alaska State Trooper Wood. He was my point of contact to make this happen.

My office on wheels

My office on wheels

The sonar off the back and down through the ice to be towed near the bottom.

The sonar off the back and down through the ice to be towed near the bottom.

Clearing ice for the sonar

Clearing ice for the sonar

Alaska 323

Day 11 of Kwethluk SAR in Alaska

Below is the article from the Bethel Sar website about a search near Kwethluk on theKuskoquak Slough. So far there have been no new developments and Keith is packed and ready to go north, flying out Friday. Keith is anxious to lend a helping hand and share some knowledge about working searches on the ice. It’s very different from using the sonar on open water. A tremendous amount of more planning, assistance and equipment are involved to create clear, sonar images.

 

Day 11 started with rain and snow mixed and a new hope for the recovery of those still lost. As about 35 people worked tirelessly around auger holes and new trenches strung along the ice, the feeling was not of despair, but of optimism and a knowledge of traditional beliefs that soon..soon…. both who have been missing will be brought to their families. But also knowing that the belief of wishing for something to intently, may not occur. And realizing if one talks of anything else besides the current mission, success is more likely. All part of a belief long ingrained in cultural understanding.

Day 11 ended without new developments and no new clues….

christmas2

The Kwethluk crew surrounding a large hole in the ice today talked of returning on Christmas Day and the need to continue on and of upcoming techniques that they can try. Places they may have missed or of people that may have not searched in specific areas. Talk of the upcoming new techniques with the sonar machine expected to arrive the day after Christmas was discussed with a desire to bring closure. Many also spoke of the volunteers who have been helping and the need for more people to assist to complete the trenches needed for the sonar, and the thankfulness of the food that supporters have been providing.

The Christmas season is here and the celebration of a new beginning is upon us all. We pray for all in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta to be safe as they travel to visit families and friends. We,  the BSAR family wish to remind everyone traveling to always file a travel plan with  friends, relatives and or your local VPSO or law enforcement. We also wish everyone the joys of Christmas, the happiness of families, and the kinship we all share.

Next Search – Alaska

Our next search takes us to Bethel Alaska on Dec 26th for a 3000 mile journey. Three young community members went missing while traveling on a four-wheeler and believe to be in the river. One has been recovered with two still missing.

For the full story click on this link.  http://kusko.net/bsar/

I will be giving updates in hopes to give the family and community the closure they so deserve.arial photo

Joshua Xiong Search

Joshua was reported missing by family Sunday Nov. 9th   after he failed to return home from fishing on the Mississippi River. Rescue crews soon found a life jacket and a fuel tank floating in gate 1 of the Dresback lock # 7. Later that day they found his boat a mile down river. I called Winona County Sheriff’s Dept. on Tue to offer our service. We went over on Wed and Thur and ran our Klein 3900 sonar and found one possible target. The Winona County Dive Team dove on the target to find a barrel and branches that gave us the image of interest. I spent Fri going over all our recorded data. Returned on Sat and spent the day on the river with no luck. The cold weather and snow has been a challenge. Trying to keep warm on the river and keep our equipment from freezing up has created new problems to work through.

We have recorded all our data and this gives up the ability to analyze all the tree and debre that lies on the bottom of the Mississippi River. We will continue to work this case. It is very apparent that Joshua is loved and missed by many with the support we are receiving while we are searching.

I would like to thank Scott Moldenhaure and Jason Waters for coming out to drive my pontoon in this weather. Also the Winona Highway Dept and Millis Transfer of BRF for allowing me to get the pontoon in a warm shop to dry out our equipment.

For news video – VolunteersJoshua Xiong

Hoping for a closure for Joshua’s family soon!

 

Roger Goodell – Found

October 27th

Roger Goodell Updateroger

On Saturday October 25th Roger Goodell’s body was recovered from the Mississippi River. Roger went missing two weeks prior while fishing with a friend. Their boat got pulled into the hydraulics of the river just below lock #9 in Lynxville WI. On Sunday evening Scott was contacted by Kay, a Face book friend about this accident and gave us a family contact number. I contacted them and they agreed to have us come down to run our Klein 3900 sonar system to locate their family member. We traveled 110 miles that Monday, Wednesday and Friday to aid in his recovery. As in every case we get involved with we met many good people and made more friends. This small community pulled together along with many nearby departments to search for Roger. During our three days of search we did a test which I believe proved to be very interesting. Two jugs tied on a line, one full to flow along the bottom and one empty and sealed to float. This was put where Roger fell out of the boat. This was an eye opener for that the jugs where pulled down and into the gates and got hung up. A second test was done but this time further away from the gates with the same results. I believed that this was very likely where Roger could be hung up as time went on and not located downstream. I made the suggestion that this area needs to be checked out. The lock folks made this happen which was not an easy task Friday the 24rd. I wish more people could see the forces that this river produces.

We were invited to stop by the Wooden Nickel on our way out of the area for supper on the owner. We got to know more about Roger during this visit and from our new friends on Face book. It is apparent that Roger was quite a character and loved by many in the area. As friends and relatives gathered on Saturday the 25th to celebrate his life, it was interesting that this is the day that he was found. They say he was not one to miss a good party! RIP Roger, you left good memories that many will cherish.