Tri- State Diving- vehicle rescue

After 50 years of diving, Gary Thompson has lots of experience in safe vehicle retrieval

There's more to "reading" ice than measuring how thick it is. There's clear, black ice; milky ice; honeycomb ice—which is fairly good until there no longer is water visible on top of it, Thompson says—and finally, there's the ice he puts in the "oh sh**" category.

More than anything else, Thompson is seeing side-by-sides, four-wheelers, and big wheel fish houses breaking through the ice. Tri-State Diving does anywhere from 10 to 15 salvage operations in a typical winter or "busy season". Thompson says after being featured on the television show "Dirty Jobs" in 2008, Tri-State Diving is the default for most insurance companies. 

Tri-State uses a device called a SUVE which stands for Submerged Underwater Vehicle Extractor.  In very basic terms, the SUVE is like a big teeter totter with a winch on the top to raise whatever's submerged to the surface. Thompson has patents on both the apparatus and the teeter-totter concept it employs.

Going too fast on the ice with larger vehicles is a problem any time of the winter, and not because of traction issues. There are some who feel the faster you go, the less problems you are going to have and its the opposite. Driving on top of the ice creates a wave underneath and that is was destroys the ice. 

Here are some do's and don'ts for driving on the ice from Gary "Seal" Thompson, owner of Tri-State Diving in Detroit Lakes, Minn.:

• Do test the ice before venturing out to make sure it's thick enough to support the weight of whatever you'll be driving. Remember milky or honeycomb ice isn't as strong as clear, black ice.

• Don't drive too fast on the ice with larger vehicles; keep the speed to no more than 10 or 15 mph. "We still have people out there that feel the faster you go, the less problems you're going to have, and it's just the opposite," Thompson says. "You're creating a wave underneath there, and that's what destroys the ice."

• Do avoid areas with cattails, which can weaken the ice, and current areas where the ice is always thinner.

• Do call authorities and your insurance company immediately after dropping a vehicle through the ice. As owner of an extraction business, Thompson says it's easier to work through the process if he has a claim number before starting the job.

• Do use the same GPS you used to mark the location of the sunken item—if you used one—when going out to find and retrieve the item. "You're always going to be more accurate," Thompson said. "Even if it's the same (GPS) brand, if you're punching the coordinates in, it's not the same as having the unit you're out there with. ... The coordinates might be off 15 or 20 feet. If you use the same one, you're going to be a lot more consistent."

Source, credits, and full article: Grand Forks

image credits:  Tri-State Diving

image credits: Tri-State Diving

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