It’s a risky business saving lives

written by Lee Lewis Husk | photos by Bradley Lanphear

At 11:50 a.m. on June 12, 2014, a sailboat capsized near Osprey Point Marina in Lakeside, Oregon, trapping three people inside. Rescue diver Bob Hood led the team that saved all three, including an infant, despite getting tangled in the boat’s riggings. He’s part of the six-member Bandon Fire District SWORA (Southwest Oregon Regional Airport) Dive Team that regularly puts itself in harm’s way.

“We can go from everything is fine to a screaming emergency,” said Hood, who works as the operations manager for the airport. Since its formation in 1994, the volunteer dive team has saved ten lives and recovered nineteen drowning victims from the ocean, rivers and lakes.

The dive team deploys about once a month and has been through a “ridiculous” amount of training, according to Hood. “We go into boats that are sinking and try to save people, but only if we feel it’s safe to go in,” he said, emphasizing that the support of his team and other responding agencies is critical for success.

Working with the U.S. Coast Guard in August 2016, Hood jumped into a fast-flowing current in Winchester Bay to pull a young boy from a submerged vessel. He jettisoned his dive gear, placed the child on the boat’s up-turned bottom and performed CPR until help arrived. The child survived, and the Coast Guard plucked Hood from the water.

His advice? Wear a life jacket, keep your speed down on roads, especially near rivers, make sure vessels are seaworthy and avoid alcohol when swimming or driving a boat.

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1859 Oregon's Magazine

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