West Michigan emergency dive teams train in Kalamazoo River

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West Michigan emergency dive teams train in Kalamazoo River. (WWMT/Jason Heeres)

Emergency response dive teams from all over the region came together Thursday in Battle Creek to prepare for worst possible scenarios.

It is not an uncommon sight to see divers searching a three mile of stretch of the North Branch Kalamazoo River. The sight with divers from several local counties might have made it look like something terrible had happened.

“I did respond with, I believe it was Kalamazoo County that asked for assistance with the Gull Lake drowning a couple years back,” Barry County Sheriff Sgt. Ryan Argo, a dive team member, said. “It keeps that edge, so that you can, when you are faced with that scenario, you’ve had that experience, and you can use anything that you’ve gained here during training in real life.”

In reality, the divers were part of a training exercise for the Michigan Region 5 Dive Team, which includes nine counties and the city of Battle Creek.

The scenario for the dive team was a hypothetical van full of explosives and weapons dumped into the river. Teams set up at different stations along the river collected the fake evidence as best they could, to varying degrees of success.

The goal was for divers to sharpen their skills mentally and physically, and practice working together with other response units, should a real situation require the teamwork.

“The training is definitely key, because when you can’t see anything under the water, and you’re working all on experience, the trainings are what comes in the most handy,” Van Buren County Sheriff Rescue Team diver Trevor Tate said.

The bombs were not real and the bodies were played by mannequins, but the knowledge gained was truly real, which could provide a difference during a real incident.

A lot of the dive teams train monthly and sometimes the teams find items that aren’t part of training.

On July 11, 2019, the team found an old cash register that could possibly be related to a crime.

Calhoun County Emergency Management Director Durk Dunham said the training wouldn’t have been possible without the help of volunteers, in particular, the American Red Cross.