The divers took turns hopping into the pool with tape on the front of their 32 pound $30,000 helmets to simulate late night, murky water dives to recover bodies.
Stanislaus County Dive Team leader Sgt. Paul Yotsuya, who is assigned to Patterson, said the facilities are ideal for divers and the Sheriff’s department appreciated the city of Patterson giving access to the deputies.
The four-hour training consisted of six exercises where different divers using hard line air compressors and scuba back-up systems attempted to locate “Recovery Randy,” the training dummy used by the dive team. Yotsuya specifically pointed out the helmets, which were procured after the two week exhaustive search for 4-year-old Juliani Cardenas in early 2011.
Cardenas was taken by Jose Esteban Rodriguez from his grandmother’s arms and driven away in a silver Toyota Corolla, Jan. 18, 2011. Minutes later, a farm worker reported seeing a vehicle that matched the Corolla’s description roll into the Delta-Mendota Canal near Zacharias Road, where both Rodriguez and Cardenas drowned.
Investigators recovered Cardenas’ body in the Delta-Mendota Canal near Santa Nella on Feb. 1, 2011 and Rodriguez’s body in the waterway near Bell and Diehl roads south of Crows Landing 11 days later.
Three years ago divers used face masks with little head protection while diving, which hindered them from entering the Corrolla to search when it was located, Yotsuya said. The bright yellow helmets will help the next time there is a search, he added.
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputy diver Lloyd MacKinnon, also a homicide detective, swam around the pool using search tactics to locate Recovery Randy. Once the mannequin was located, a second diver named Scott Camire entered and helped place a body bag on the “victim.”
The training dummy was then taken by the divers across the pool to a point where other deputies helped extract the faux body. The divers took their time exiting the pool and getting their bearings back after having spent up to 45 minutes in the pool with no visibility.
Nick Rappley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-568-9975.