Metro underwater rescue team knows what the divers in Branson are facing

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Kansas City, Mo. -- As the investigation around the Duck Boat tragedy continues this weekend, most of the focus is on the boat itself, which is currently 80 feet underwater and approximately 150 feet off shore.  Divers in Branson are collecting forensic evidence and photographs from the boat before they attempt to raise it, but some local rescue divers believe the whole thing might have been prevented.

Divers from Lee's Summit Underwater Recovery and Rescue cleaned up the bottom of Longview Lake on Saturday. Between them, the divers have decades of experience pulling debris, boats and even bodies out of black waters...just like the water at Table Rock Lake.  According to Bill Feller, a veteran Navy diver, "We train our divers to close their eyes and feel with their hands.  Its like diving in chocolate milk.  You can't see your hands  in front of your face."  Feller has been to the bottom of Table Rock.  He is in contact with divers in Branson who are collecting evidence  from the scene.  "Its cold and dark at the 80 foot level," said Feller "So more than likely the are diving with lights and in 50 degree water."

Many of the local divers who are doing the cleanup are also experienced boat drivers.  Most believe the tragedy on Table Rock could have been prevented.

Feller said, ""My gut instinct was that a lot of bad decisions were made at the start."  Beginning with going out on the lake in the midst of an approaching storm, and continuing with their assumption that many on board were probably not wearing available life jackets.

Lee's Summit Rescue diver Brian Meinershagen said,  "You get into a capsizing situation like this and you may get knocked out, and you won't have the opportunity to don your life vest."   Feller would have run the boat a ground the moment the waves started cresting.  "I would have beached the boat.  I would have had some mad passengers, but the boat wouldn't have been on the bottom."

Now divers in Branson are tasked with resurrecting the Duck boat.  They will probably use gigantic inflatable canvas bags to raise it from the depths, where it is most likely lodged amidst tree stumps and debris. Feller explained,  "They are gonna have to rig it with lift bags because your tow ropes aren't long enough to go from shore to water.  That is too much line to carry down."

  According to the NTSB, after forensic evidence is collected from the boat, they will try to raise it.  Maybe by Monday.  The physical inspection and investigation will continue on the boat from land.  No conclusive cause for the crash is expected for up to one year.
The Lee's Summit Rescue and Recovery Team is made up of volunteers.  If you would like more information about training with the team or donating to their efforts, go to LSUNDERWATER.ORG
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