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Milford Beacon
  • Slaughter Beach Fire Company upgrades sonar search system

  • Memorial Fire Company Station 89 of Slaughter Beach has upgraded its search and recovery equipment with the addition of a side scan sonar system, which is capable of providing clearer pictures during underwater search missions.
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  • Memorial Fire Company Station 89 of Slaughter Beach has upgraded its search and recovery equipment with the addition of a side scan sonar system, which is capable of providing clearer pictures during underwater search missions.
    The Slaughter Beach fire company is only the second in the state to possess the EdgeTech Model 4125-P, in addition to the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement. According to a press release sent by International Industries Incorporated, the company that sold and delivered the system, the two Delaware systems are “the best sources for underwater search and recovery south of Philadelphia, Pa. and north of Norfolk, Va.”
    The system includes a 34-pound Towfish that runs alongside or behind a boat, attached to a 50-meter cable that transmits the sonar readings to a special computer. The digital sonar images are clearer, quicker and easier to read than older sonar systems that would transmit paper readings.
    The $55,000 system was purchased through a Port Security grant after about two years of planning, grant writing and waiting for its arrival, said Memorial Fire Company Chief Mike Pfaffenhauser. The system was delivered to the fire company at the beginning of December, but because of the chilly temperatures and amount of ice currently in the Delaware Bay, he expects that it will not go out for its first test run until April.
    Older versions of the same equipment are sporadic throughout the state, mostly in southern Delaware, making this the only digital, up-to-date sonar system in the area.
    “We can use this for multiple things, from body recovery to assisting DSP with evidence recovery,” Pfaffenhauser explained. “Anything that could be lost at the bottom of the bay, or a creek, we could use this [to locate it].”
    While Pfaffenhauser said it varies on how often bodies are lost in the water, it is an unfortunate scenario in which the side scan sonar device could be implemental in providing a family closure.
    “If we can bring closure to a family, that could help a family get through a tough time,” he said.
    Slaughter Beach Mayor Daniel McCarthy, who is also a member of the Memorial Fire Company, said he is extremely impressed with the device and what it can do.
    “It all depends on how deep it is and what we’re looking for,” McCarthy explained, “but you could see a deceased person very clearly.”
    Significant training is also required to operate the system, mostly to learn how to decipher the sonar readings, Pfaffenhauser said.  About six of the fire company’s 40 members will be trained on how to use the equipment and decipher the sonar readings.
    Page 2 of 2 - “The problem is, it’s not like looking at a photograph,” he said. “It’s sonar, so you have to read the signs more or less. It’s very clear, but it all depends on what you’re looking for.”
    With the 50-meter transmitting cable, Pfaffenhauser said the system will be able to locate items in even the deepest areas of channels, up to 100 feet.
    Pfaffenhauser said the system will be available for all surrounding fire companies and hopes that it may also be used for educational purposes if any organization is interested. It will also be available for neighboring companies to use for searches, if needed.
    “This is a tool and we want neighboring companies to know we have it,” he said. “We’re all about public education and if there’s anyone interested in seeing how it works, we encourage them to contact us.”
     
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