The Hennepin County Board approved a $145,000 federal grant last week to purchase new equipment for quicker recovery of drowning victims.
The Sheriff's Office will own and operate an underwater remote-operated vehicle that can be used in murky or deep-water recoveries.
Emergency responders already use sonar equipment to locate drowning victims and evidence needed in criminal investigations. The sonar identifies multiple possibilities, and divers then go underwater to search. In deep areas, the effort can take a great deal of time and energy.
The new vehicle can expedite those searches, especially when visibility is poor or when cars or snowmobiles break through ice. It uses a camera, lights and a manipulator arm to provide a more accurate picture of what's underwater, making it easier and safer for divers to find victims.
The money is a U.S. Coast Guard port security grant, channeled through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Homeland Security and Emergency Management. It also includes extra diver training and new equipment.