Rescue crews in Albany must rely on volunteers or out-of-town dive teams to help during a drowning or underwater search, but the Albany Fire Department wants to change that.
On Tuesday city commissioners tentatively approved the funding needed to train and equip 30 employees.
Fire Department Chief James Carswell says it often takes a long time to recover a drowning victim and bring closure to a family in Albany. But quicker searches can make for a world of difference for a grieving family.
Chief Carswell says in Albany they average two drownings a year.
"If we happen to be able to hook them successfully, you still have to bring the body to the bank and leave it there while the coroner comes and pronounces [them] dead. We try to limit access to the family but they know if there is public access nearby they will be grouped up there."
Sometimes a body isn't found for days, and crews are left with more primitive recovery efforts.
"Usually we have to wait for the natural process for the body to decompose [that] causes it to rise. [And] it doesn't come straight up. It slowly rises, which means it is carried further down the river, and at some point it will break [the] surface and that process could last [from] a day to a week."
But officials hope to shorten that time frame, as commissioners tentatively approved $60,000 to buy ten sets of gear and train 30 employees.
Chief Carswell says the initial 30 people trained for the dive team will be employees with the Albany Fire Department, so they won't have to hire any additional people. They will instead be responsible for an additional duty.
They hope to have a team trained in about six months.