On Thursday, the Sheriff's Underwater Recovery Force (SURF) conducted a multi-area training session to brush up on their rescue and recovery skills. On hand were representatives from the Sarasota County Sheriff's Offce, Sarasota's Police Department, the Longboat Key Police Department, the Northport Police Department, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The drills were practiced in Sarasota Bay off of on City Island. The divers jumped from an agency helicopter in teams of two in order to retrieve a dummy from the water and return it safely onto a nearby boat. All the while lucky patrons at were treated to a great showing of skill and precision.
Thirty-five years ago the Sheriff's Office saw a need for a search and rescue team for the area due to the massive number of lakes, streams, marshes, and beaches surrounding us.
The SURF Unit is called upon to search for evidence of crimes and victims of drowning, water accidents and foul play.
SURF Quick Hits
- There are currently eight Sarasota County Sheriff's Office members plus two North Port deputies attached to the unit. The Sheriff's Office said these are not full-time positions but an additional assignment to regular duties.
- Members of this unit are called out as needed. This could be several times in one week or several times over a period of months. The Sheriff's Office said they are called upon at least 12 times per year.
- They have recovered stolen automobiles from bottom of lakes, a body from a vehicle that went over a seawall into a canal on Siesta Key and searched for a missing diver about 12 miles off Longboat Key in the past year.