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"This is not anything a school can teach you"

Underwater Recovery
Underwater Recovery Training
Posted at 6:07 PM, May 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-13 18:52:08-04

BALTIMORE COUNTY — It's time to sharpen up their skills, first responders trained for a real life situation in the water. Behind Martin State Airport in Baltimore County a group of 50 people conducted an airplane rescue.

"This is not anything a school can teach you or you can learn to do in a book, you just have to get in the water in different conditions with different people,” said Brian Key, who is Corporal with the Maryland State Police.

The Maritime Tactical Operations Group, MTOG, consisting of six teams, are practicing underwater recovery.

These were the first responders on scene when the Key Bridge collapsed.

"Baltimore County Police, my team, we actually put on the training so it's my team, Maryland State Police is here, PG County, Natural Resources Police, the State Fire Marshals and the Strike Team from the Coast Guard,” said Officer Derek Sennett, Marine Unit Officer with the Baltimore County Police Department.

Each team comes with their unique capabilities using Sonar and ROV systems.

"This is your playground, they have to search this entire area," said Sennett.

Sennett is the assistant team leader to the dive team. He said this week long training happens every year getting real world experience.

This year is a downed aircraft scenario, similar to one that happened about 30 years ago.

"We had a downed aircraft, our team was able to come out and recover the aircraft, we haven't trained since then for anything like that,” said Sennett.

Martin State Airport donated the airplane. “We were able to get it from one end of the airport to the other by towing it, once we get it down here we empty it completely make sure there is no contaminants once over,” said Sennett.

Then it's time to start the recovery, Sennett said, "Scenario is aircraft late last night neighbors saw would look to be a small aircraft go into the water, there was no real report of it. One complaint, no one really saw anything."

When divers go out, they have to find the airplane, debris and any bodies.

"My group we searched from the tail back,” said Key. He said the biggest obstacle in this scenario is the visibility.

"I'd say I held my computer like this and still couldn't read it, so everything is by feel,” said Key.

Requiring the teams to use signals to communicate.

"Very common communications for us are either rope pulls, we'll just predesignate one means hey pay attention or we're checking on you, two says I found a target,” said Key. "Like today it was time to come up but you can't communicate that so you grab a guys thumb and say we're going up.”

Once recovery is complete, the teams bring the plain back up to the ramp and tow it out of the water. Training will last the rest of the week.