By: Tom Duggan – November 1, 2012
METHUEN – The City of Methuen’s Police Department has one more tool in it’s’ arsenal when responding to public safety emergencies in the many waterways of the city.
Methuen Police Chief Joe Solomon told the Valley Patriot Thursday that for approximately $7,000 the City of Methuen now owns it’s very own remotely operated underwater Search & Rescue Vehicle (ROV), equipped with fiber optic camera, lights for deep or night time diving and full rotation mobility.
Solomon says he got the idea after 15 year old Brynne Kurmas jumped off the Spicket Falls Dam in March of 2011. “It took a while for us to recover the body because the water was high from the spring melt,” Solomon said.
“Eventually, New Hampshire agreed to put up the boards on their dams to slow water flow and we could put the divers in the water, but it still took a long time before we found her behind Methuen Village.”
Solomon said the new ROV was paid for through a State Emergency Management Grant Methuen received about a month and a half ago.
“Hopefully we will never need to use it for recovery but its uses are endless. “
“If someone goes under in Forest Lake, for example, we can use VideoRay to direct the divers so that as we looked around we can save time and hopefully save lives. The Massachusetts State police have two of these VideoRay machines but they have the bigger model. This was a much better size for our ponds and gives us much more capability.”
Solomon says that the remote sub has a fiber optic tether that feeds video back to 7” monitor that is housed in a control unit that allows police to pilot the vehicle it and look underwater in real time.
Solomon added that there are other advantages beyond emergency response calls and recovery missions.
“One of the other advantages this gives us is we can help out with homeland security. We can inspect local bridges for structural problems after flooding or a crisis. We can check the intake valves at the water treatment plant, check the stability of the dams, there’s so much this will help us with. I think it was a great investment for the city,” Solomon concluded.
Solomon said that the machine is a smaller unit than those being used by state police but ads that the city can upgrade the ROV to get sonar and the VideoRay Company will take the smaller unit in trade.
Lt. Mike Pappalardo, Methuen’s Deputy Director of Emergency management and Sgt. Mike Havey, the Marine Unit Commander both underwent training to learn to pilot ROV’s in October of 2012.
“These guys are fully trained and we are ready to respond better and faster to emergencies in Methuen’s waterways,” Solomon concluded.