LANE COUNTY, Ore. — A group of volunteer divers with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office does a river clean-up every year, and each time, they find some of the most interesting items.
Jim Emery, one of the volunteer search and rescue divers, said they use this opportunity to train.
“You look at a river, and you see it nice and pretty above, but you don’t realize how trashy it is below,” Emery said. “When we are not picking up cars off the bottom of the water, or upside-down boats, or victim searches, then we are training. This is a fun thing to do for training.”
The divers have been doing a river clean-up once a year for 12 years. Over the years, they have found all kinds of things.
“We found seven guns, all kinds of crime material that we turned in, hundreds of bicycles, and hundreds of tires. It’s just endless what people throw out,” Emery said.
This year, they took to cleaning up the area below the Ferry Street Bridge.
“All bridges are hot spots for us. We are guaranteed to find something, like today we found a wallet from a gentleman who we called, his license was in the wallet, and five years later we find it between a couple of rocks down there ,” Emery said. “There’s always something, last time we did this area; we found two guns.”
Eugene resident Michael Baldwin certainly didn’t expect to get the call that his wallet was found. He said about five years ago; he lost it when he went rafting with some friends.
“Our raft popped, and we had to hike out,” Baldwin said. “I realized I had lost my wallet, and now, here I am five years later, and here’s my wallet.”
The team has been extremely busy this season, with six drowning victims. Only 12 divers make up the team, and every single one of them is a volunteer.
“All of us still work, so when we get a call, for let’s say for a drowning victim, people have to leave their offices, call their bosses for days off, and do whatever they can to get there as fast as we can but we are all volunteers,” Emery said. “So, it might take an hour or two for some of us to get there; there’s usually five or six of us that can make it any one given day.”
Emery said they get a lot of support from local organizations, which helps supply them with top-notch diving and safety equipment.
“One is the Eugene Skin Divers Supply; they support us 100%,” Emery said. “Another one is Springfield Elks, who bought us expensive personal floatation devices and are constantly asking us what they can do to help us.”
Emery said every time they dive below the surface; they’re giving it all they’ve got to find whatever they’re looking for.
“Kind of a community-minded spirit, as is everyone on our team,” Emery said. “We have the skills; we’ve all been diving for many, many years, and it’s our way to give back.”