Midwest Dive Team receives donation and thanks, from the family of drowning victim


February 21st, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Montgomery County Emergency Management Coordinator Brian Hamman reports the Midwest Regional Dive Team recently received a donation from the family of a man whose body they recovered last Summer, from a lake in Nebraska.

Pat and Connie Palmerton back row center, standing with members from Midwest Regional Dive Team that were at the recovery in July. (Photo courtesy Brian Hamman, Montgomery Co. EMA)

Members of the Michael D. Hartsook family presented the team with a check for $2,500 on Sunday, January 27th. The team also received a plaque showing the families’  appreciation for the support and closure they received on July 3rd, 2012 at Hansen Lake #3 in Sarpy County, NE.

Members of the Midwest Regional Dive Team were requested by the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office for a dive recovery for a possible drowning victim from July 1st, 2012, that hadn’t been located by other local dive teams and was still missing. The Dive Team responded on July 3rd and battled 100 degree weather for nearly 10 hours. A systematic grid search was done and after 96,000 square feet was searched, the body of Michael Hartsook was recovered.

Cass County Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Bartholomew has been a member of the MRDT for three-years. He told KJAN News their training really pays-off in preparing them for the variable conditions they face when searching for a victim. He says when they train for rescue and recovery efforts, they’re in little-to zero-visibility water, that can range in temperature from the high 30’s to low 40’s.

Even though the family met with the members of the dive team six-months after the tragedy, it brought them one step closer to closure as it was Michael’s birthday, and they wanted to share it with those that were able to recover him from the lake that day. The Dive Team helped to recover three drowning victims in July 2012. On July 4th, they located the body of a 31-year old Lewis woman who drowned while swimming in the Nishnabotna River, in the “Rock Cuts” area of Cold Springs State Park near Lewis, and only July 24th, they helped search for the body of a 25-year old man who died after jumping in to save a girl at Lake Red Rock near Pella. Bartholomew says efforts to recover victims can wear emotionally on the volunteer team. He says it can be “taxing,” especially with the back-to-back searches, but it can be rewarding, as well, especially when it brings closure to the family. He said also it’s nice to be appreciated by those families, because that’s who they’re doing it for.

The Midwest Regional Dive Team consists of divers and support staff ranging in age from the early 20’s to mid-50’s. Some of the older members have decades worth of diving experience. The come from the Red Oak Fire Dept, Clarinda Fire Dept, Ringgold County Water Emergency Team, Adams County EMS, and Cass County, IA Sheriff’s Office. The dive team responds to any requests within a 200 mile radius of Clarinda, Iowa. In 2012, the team responded to a total of four dive recoveries in Iowa and Nebraska.