Posted at: 05/06/2014 2:32 PM
Updated at: 05/06/2014 10:41 PM
He called it a surreal experience.
"When we arrived, it was at night. And it was still a rescue mission. There were flares going off and then floating down, all night," Dave Phillips recalls.
The St. Louis County Undersheriff spent two full days at the rescue site of the Sewol ferry crash. He and a fellow rescue expert from San Diego, Mark Fleming, were brought out to the scene, just days after the accident.
The Sewol went down on April 16th, off the coast of South Korea. There were 425 people on board, many of them high school students. 260 people have been confirmed dead, while 40 are still missing.
"We brought our remotely operated vehicles, which also have a multi-beam sonar system as well," Phillips said.
The equipment helped divers who were battling strong currents and extremely low visibility, make their way into the Sewol. Phillips said there was about 10 inches of visibility. "I'd say they were the worst conditions you could possibly dive in." One diver just died on the mission.
The divers are trying to find victims, some of whom are still trapped on board the vessel.
When they arrived, Phillips estimates there were over 500 divers.
"It's a national tragedy for Korea, and we feel for them. We'd go back if they need us again," Phillips said.
They knew about Phillips and Fleming's work, because the two men had helped in a different mission a month before that.
The county was able to purchase four new ROV systems like the one Phillips has, thanks to grant money. The one he brought to Korea is his own.