Alabama Marine Police Officer John Williams, a member of the task force, demonstrated the new submersible camera equipment Friday afternoon at the Smith Lake Dam boat launch.
Williams said the VideoRay Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) is extremely versatile, portable and will be a reliable solution for underwater operations, such as the search and recovery operations performed by the Smith Lake Task Force, as well as other unique applications in underwater environments.
“The VideoRay’s “plug and play” technology will allow us to quickly attach the sensors and accessories in the field so we can successfully complete our mission,” Williams said. “It can be moved in all directions, which will be an asset for us. It’s very lightweight, and we’re going to be able to maneuver it 360 degrees.”
Williams said once task force team members become more proficient in the use of the camera, they will hopefully be able to cover more ground than they have in the past with equipment currently being used.
“We can run the submarine off an inverted power supply as well as a generator, so this will allow us to use it in other areas where we might have to conduct an underwater search, such as in a pond or small creek,” Williams said. “It might not work in every situation, but we feel like it will work in a lot of situations and it will help speed up the search and recovery process of a body or object that we’re searching for.”
For the past 12 years, the members of the task force’s Search and Recovery Team have been using three special underwater cameras which dropped over the side of the SLTF Search Boat during a search for a drowning victim on Smith Lake and other waterways in and around Walker, Winston and Cullman counties.
The Smith Lake Task Force was formed with cooperation from the Walker, Winston and Cullman county sheriff's departments and the three county’s Emergency Management Agencies, the Alabama Marine Police and members of the Mike Beasley family.
The task force began purchasing underwater cameras and a boat to run the cameras from to search for drowning victims on Smith Lake following the search and recovery of the body of Duskin Point Marina owner Mike Beasley, when he died in a boating accident in May 2001.
The Smith Lake Task Force is a non-profit organization which operates solely from donations it receives from individuals, businesses and organizations, such as the Mike Beasley Memorial Foundation and Walker Area Community Foundation.