It’s been a tragically busy summer for the dive/rescue teams of Duneland’s
fire departments, with three drownings in the waters off Indiana Dunes
National Lakeshore and one false alarm—this past Sunday—at West Beach.
Since its creation four years ago, however, the Chesterton Fire Department’s
Dive/Rescue Team has been practicing regularly for just such incidents. In
fact, the CFD’s team averages about one call-out a week, 50 a year, Training
Chief Nate Williams told the Chesterton Tribune.
The team will respond to any water-related emergency and trains in a variety
of search-and-rescue techniques, such as ice and open-water surface rescue,
the use of tow bars pulled by boats or jet skis, and sunken control points,
in which divers are tethered to an anchor point at the bottom.
Its inventory of equipment includes a full dive suit for each member,
recovery bags, rope, a selection of life jackets—among them six swift-water
models—an ice-rescue sled, and a life ring, all of it stowed on a
The team is headed by Capt. Jamie Hicks and is comprised of Lt. Steve Himan,
Lt. Brandon Smith, Engineer Bret Valpatic, and firefighters Chad Compton,
Heather Compton, Kevin LaDuke, Marc Mihalik, and Brad Tyskiewicz
All team members are certified—at a minimum—for open-water and
emergency-response dives, while some of them have obtained more specialized
certifications, including ice diver, river diver, dry-suit diver, advanced
and master diver, and dive instructor, Williams said.
The CFD’s Dive/Rescue Team has also been utilized in another capacity:
evidence search and recovery. In the past, Williams said, divers have
splashed seeking sunken boats, stolen cars, and firearms.