TWRA uses underwater equipment to assist searches, security - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

TWRA uses underwater equipment to assist searches, security

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

When Tennessee's waterways turn deadly, it's often a race against the clock. That was true on Percy Priest Lake last weekend, after a boat crash killed one man and injured two other people.

Officers were able to close the case with help from a new underwater tool.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has used an underwater robot to locate four missing bodies in the past three months.

The submersible remote underwater vehicle is faster and safer than other equipment, and the device, which costs $120,000, is capable of much more.

It has an arm with a maneuverable hand, lights, sonar and audio and video recording systems. TWRA officers say it's more valuable than any other equipment they operate.

"Especially when documenting an underwater crime scene," said TWRA office Matt Majors.

An officer can view what the device is encountering underwater by watching a monitor above the surface and take notes on what he sees.

The device even measures the water's temperature and current.

"We can leave the divers on shore and save their air, save them from potentially being injured," Majors said.

So far, officers have found submerged cars, trucks boats and even mailboxes and ATM machines by using the device.

Last weekend, the device helped locate the body of 39-year-old Harvie Butler after a boating accident at Percy Priest Lake.

"Our officers are able to come out anytime day or night to assist those families, and that's ultimately our goal," Majors said.

In addition to search and recovery missions, the TWRA will use the robot to track underwater habitats for wildlife programs and can even use it as a security measure with the Department of Homeland Security without endangering officers' lives.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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