State police divers take icy plunge in name of training

Posted at: 03/07/2013 4:29 PM
Updated at: 03/07/2013 5:36 PM
By: Mark Mulholland

LAKE GEORGE - The frozen surface of Lake George, near Hearthstone Point State Campground is serving as an icy classroom for a couple dozen intrepid state troopers this week.

They lower themselves into the 33-degree water for a simulated search for evidence and drowning victims. This training prepares them for the real thing.

"We actually monitor their movement under the ice. And we have communication with them and we can actually direct them to different targets that are down there," said Sgt. Tom Barden, who heads up the NY State Police dive unit.

The cold is not the only challenge the troopers face. They have to keep their cool in dark, enclosed spaces. There's often just one small hole for them to get back out.

State police say ice and dive rescue is clearly not for everyone. In fact, out of more than 70 state troopers who applied for the program this year, 19 completed the training.

"We don't hold anything against anybody that doesn't make it," said Barden. "It's just not for everybody."

It is for John Duro. The road trooper based in Latham says the training hasn't been easy, but he looks forward to making a difference. "Strong will and determination to do it. It also takes a lot of hard work. A lot of effort. You have to really want it. Otherwise, you won't make it through."

The state police say spring time is typically their busiest time for ice rescues as snowmobiles and fishermen become too heavy for thinning ice. When it happens, there are now 19 more troopers ready to dive in.