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Equipment theft could hinder water rescues

August 14th, 2012 10:01 pm by Rex Barber

Equipment theft could hinder water rescues

More than $10,000 in medical and diving equipment was stolen from an emergency medical services boat docked at a local lake, and the theft could mean a delayed response for anyone who becomes stranded in the water.
Capt. Dan Wheeley with Washington County/Johnson City EMS said the theft was discovered Monday when a man found the 26-foot boat’s sonar floating in Boone Lake near Sonny’s Marina & Cafe Inc., where the boat is docked. That sonar was traced via serial number back to EMS.
The boat was then checked and found burglarized.
A sizable locked cabin under the bow contains all the emergency equipment and diving gear. According to a Washington County Sheriff’s Office report, the cabin doors were kicked open. No other evidence was found and no suspects were named.
Life jackets, scuba tanks, masks, a dry suit, dive fins, an oxygen tank, a dive harness, an automatic electronic defibrillator and other medical equipment were among the items taken from the boat. Wheeley said the value of the items was around $16,000.
The last time the boat was used was Aug. 2, so the burglary occurred sometime between then and Monday.
The diving gear would be the most useful items for the thief or thieves but those items likely could not be sold to any local dealer because it would be obvious the equipment belonged to a public safety dive team.
“It’s very specific,” Wheeley said of the diving gear.
The EMS service has had this boat about 10 years.
“It’s the only large boat that we keep on the lake,” Wheeley said. “We have two other ... small boats.”
This year first responders in Washington County have only responded to five or six boating accidents, but no one was in the water with those. However, the dive team uses life jackets anytime they go out, and those were stolen too.
“The boat’s still in the lake,” Wheeley said. “We put some basic medical equipment back on it.”
An insurance claim was filed for the stolen equipment but it will probably take three to four weeks to get new equipment ordered and delivered. That lack of diving equipment means members of the team will have to wait for equipment to be brought from another location to do any dives.
“So if there’s a boating accident on the lake and there’s people in the water it’s going to delay our response,” Wheeley said.

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