South Haven rescuers hope hand-held sonar will save lives

Van Buren County

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — An especially bad summer for drownings and water rescues in the South Haven area in 2020 led to calls to make the lakeshore safer.

Last year, three people drowned at South Haven’s Lake Michigan beaches.

Rescuers also raced to 23 other calls there.

“We did have quite a few incidents last year. Don’t know if it was all due to high water. We can’t pinpoint a reason,” Brandon Hinz, South Haven Area Emergency Services director, said.

That led South Haven Area Emergency Services to get a new $5,500 tool.

It’s called AquaEye, a hand-held sonar device not much bigger than a blow dryer meant to help with searches and maybe even save lives.

Sonar is short for sound navigation and ranging: using sound waves to search under water.

“It’s an underwater, hand-held sonar device that you can place 12 inches under water and it will scan any kind of water, whether it’s turbulence, murky, it will cut through it,” Hinz said.

The city bought the AquaEye with the help of donations and fundraisers.

“Our community rallied behind us. We asked for this tool and they rallied behind us and made it happen,” Hinz said.

He said rescuers used an AquaEye last week searching for the body of a diver who drowned while inspecting a dam in Allegan County.

He hopes the device can save lives:

“We’re hoping we can get down there, scan the water and perform a rescue with it and in the unfortunate case it is a recovery, at least hopefully recover the victim a little bit sooner for the family’s sake.”

He hopes to get the AquaEye by the end of the week.

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