Divers revel in jumping in rivers, lakes to assist law enforcement

tporter@lsjournal.comJune 21, 2013 

  • 4 Number of drowning deaths and near fatal drownings in the Kansas City metropolitan area since June 8.

Volunteer service and civic pride is at the heart of the Lee’s Summit Underwater Rescue and Recovery Team.

The team consists of a dozen or so of volunteers from all walks of life with two shared beliefs: a duty to the public and the love of diving.

“We all have two things in common,” DeWayne Duhon said of an organization that was founded in 1966 to help law enforcement officials recover drowning victims from area lakes and rivers. Duhon is a volunteer diver with LSURR and serves as the public information officer. “One of them is we love to dive, and the other is we have a passion for helping people. I’ve always had a passion for helping people and volunteering. I stumbled into diving a few years back and I just love it. Put the two together and here I am.”

LSURR has for more than four decades helped law enforcement officials with underwater body and property searches. A non-jurisdictional agency, team members can be summoned at a moments notice to anywhere in the metropolitan area, surrounding regional destinations, or other parts of the country.

Training is held monthly in all weather environments, and all team members are certified by nationally recognized or sponsored specialty groups that deal with scenarios that the team can be called to.

“We are non-jurisdictional,” Duhon said. “We can go anywhere in the nation.”

Mike Paulsen, a Lee’s Summit resident, became a diver with LSURR about 12 months ago. An avid diver since 2001, Paulson said he elected to become a member of the underwater rescue and recovery team out of a sense of duty for the community.

“My wife (Kay) and I believe in supporting our community, and this is a way to volunteer and give back to the community,” Paulsen said. “We’ve been foster parents for 23 years. We believe as we’re blessed, we should give back to the community. Since I can dive and I have flexibility in my schedule, this is a great opportunity to provide a service not just to Lee’s Summit, but the whole metro area.”

Once called upon, LSURR usually arrives on a scene where a drowning has occurred. There for a specific duty, team members are trained to focus on the task at hand – rescue and/or recovery.

“It is a difficult part of what we do,” Duhon said of recovery efforts. “That’s why we train. Training takes over and we focus on getting the job done.”

Added Paulsen: “(Team members) like volunteering and doing (rescue and recovery). Being able to help in those times of crisis is what we’re all about.”

With summer officially underway June 21, and a recent spate of drowning deaths and near fatal drownings in the metro area – at least four in the last two weeks – Duhon offered tips for water safety. Like most experts in the area of water safety, Duhon stresses education as a key element to reduce the likelihood of a drowning.

“Prevention goes a lot further than correction,” he said. “Life preservers; ten dollars can get you a life preserver at any sporting goods store. Wearing a life preserver around any body of water would prevent most of the drownings.

“Secondly – and this goes along with driving as well as diving – alcohol and water don’t mix. Know your limits, know your area, don’t swim alone, and take some training. If something does happen, the message is don’t just jump in. You need to reach for them, if possible…and call for help.”

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