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New inflatable boat aids county's water rescue team


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This inflatable rescue boat was purchased for the Bartholomew County Water Rescue and Recovery Team. SUBMITTED PHOTO
This inflatable rescue boat was purchased for the Bartholomew County Water Rescue and Recovery Team. SUBMITTED PHOTO


The Bartholomew County Water Rescue and Recovery team has been taking steps for more than a year to make sure it is fully prepared for any incident.

The acquisition of a 14-foot, inflatable rescue boat caps the team’s goal of readiness for all circumstances, according to Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Maj. Gary Myers, the team’s coordinator.

“This is the only equipment left that could possibly enhance our rescue efforts,” he said.

To ensure a faster response to all areas of the county, the team recently completed a yearlong effort to have rescue boats and specialized equipment permanently stationed at the Clifford Fire Station, Wayne Township Fire and Rescue and the Bartholomew County Jail.

Water Rescue and Recovery Team

The team consists of 27 employees or volunteers, including eight certified rescue divers, from the following agencies and organizations:

  • Columbus Police Department
  • Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department
  • Columbus Fire Department
  • Wayne Township Fire and Rescue
  • German Township Fire Department
  • Clifford Town Marshal’s office
  • Indiana Department of Natural Resources

The team maintains a number of other watercraft, including:

  • Air boat purchased for $65,000 in 2011, stored at the county jail.
  • 12-foot (flat-bottomed) johnboat, stored at the jail.
  • 8-foot johnboat, stored at the Clifford Fire Department
  • 8-foot johnboat, stored at Wayne Township Fire and Rescue

The new, $8,500 inflatable rescue boat provides an important tool, however.

Team leader and Sheriff’s Lt. Christopher Roberts said it offers several advantages that rescuers didn’t have with their conventional crafts:

Weighing less than 400 pounds, it can be picked up by a small group and carried over patches of dry ground that often separate flooded areas.

The boat can safely carry eight passengers, while conventional flat-bottomed crafts handle only three occupants safely.

Inflatable boats are better able to remain stable in swift or whitewater conditions.

With only a 13-inch clearance necessary, the inflatable boat can clear low bridges.

The new boat has multiple air chambers, protecting the craft from sinking due to a single puncture.

“Since we’re into the rainy season, it’s a great piece of equipment to have at our immediate disposal now,” Bartholomew County Sheriff Mark Gorbett said.

Gorbett said he initially had budget concerns last year when Myers first approached him about acquiring an inflatable boat.

“But we’re trying to keep everybody with the best equipment,” Gorbett said.

“So we came up with an alternative funding source we felt was right for this one-time purchase.”

That source was profits acquired from the sale of commissary items to county jail inmates.

While use of those funds are strictly regulated, state code permits the money to be spent on equipment used by a sheriff’s employee in the course of official duties.

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