The Dive Rescue Team's primary responsibility is emergency water rescue. It conducts underwater crime scene investigations, recovery operations, and sea wall and hull searches to locate underwater explosive devices at Port Everglades. In 2008 alone, the Dive Rescue Team conducted 197 dive missions. Members are equipped with vulcanized rubber dry suits, a full face mask to protect them from underwater elements, and utilize wireless communications to maintain constant audio contact with other divers and surface support personnel. A full cadre of tools including underwater digital video, side scan sonar, 360-degree sonar unit, side imaging systems, ROV, and underwater metal detectors are towed to a scene when needed, as explained by Sgt. Carrillo.
He also said that his people find the work very rewarding and they love the interaction with the people, along with the love of boating. One deputy has not taken this statement lightly given his experience in March of 2008.
Deputy Sam Lapinsky of the Marine Unit - Dive Rescue Team participated in a 31-year-old missing person case. Periodically, the team will side scan (with sonar) for submerged vehicles in the one to four mile long canals within city or town limits. As a matter of procedure, targets are noted and the information taken to the office for evaluation and data processing. A plan is implemented to identify, and remove specific targets if determined to be submerged vehicles.
In this four mile long canal, up to 200' wide in locations, and 18 feet deep, out of 70 determined targets, three were under an existing bridge in Coral Springs, along the C-14 canal by the 100 Block of Coral Ridge Drive. About fourteen vehicles were recovered and extracted, by the time the three targets were assessed and determined to be vehicles under the bridge.
A tow truck was placed on the bridge over the targets, with one being an old deteriorated 1970's van, older than the others. As soon as the car was being pulled, and moved gingerly, an ID card floated to the surface. It was quickly retrieved and given to an on shore deputy who radio teletyped the identification. He was told that the person belonging to that ID was a "missing person" from 31 years ago! Now being wary, another chain was attached to the frame of the submerged old rusted and deteriorated van to increase the chances of a successful in-tact extraction.
Once the van was on the bridge, after being lifted and set down while swiftly crumbling into pieces, another deputy noticed what he thought was a human bone laying beside the crumpled van. Upon closer inspection, other bones were located inside the motor vehicle.
Coral Springs Police officers maintained traffic control on the bridge for the operation, and regularly work alongside the Broward County Sheriff's Office deputies whenever needed in Coral Springs. The information spread within the departments, and soon, a female Coral Springs officer came to the scene to say the deceased was her brother, named Jeffery Klee!
The Coral Springs Crime Scene Unit came out to process the incident, according to Deputy Lapinsky, but the Dive Unit worked for three more days recovering approximately 75% of the remains, along with assorted personal effects, which included tape decks, a cane, and comb. The utility boat used is their 17', "Rescue One Connector Boat", (Rescue One is the name of the manufacturer).
Through the Broward County Sheriff's deputies efforts in the recovery, it was later determined that the victim was murdered, put into the van, and then pushed into the canal under the bridge. The person who committed the crime was identified, but has not been prosecuted as of this date.
"This is one of the most rewarding types of projects that we do, because it brings closure to the families involved," said Deputy Sam Lapinsky. "So far, it appears that one out of every hundred cars recovered have body remains in them. A large portion of the other vehicles is discarded for insurance fraud, and a smaller percentage of vehicles have been illegally stripped for parts. This is just a small portion of our job in a very large system of water throughout the county. But it is important to help reduce poisonous acids, fuel & oil contamination, and pollution in our recreationally used waterways."
Marine Patrol in the Florida Everglades
At the western part of the county is the Broward County Conservation Area broken up into 4 parcels that incorporate 400,000 acres of the Everglades. This river of grass is overseen by several entities including the South Florida Water Management Authority, Miccosukee Tribe of Florida in the south and the Seminole Tribe in the north, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, (state and federal), and the Department of Environmental Protection agencies.