04/19/04 — Deputies dive for debris

View Archive

Deputies dive for debris

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on April 19, 2004 1:58 PM

Tiny bubbles floating up to the surface of this stream by Mill Creek Road are the only indication of diver Jayson Hill's location in the black water.

A slight breeze ruffles the dark water, and seconds later Hill emerges, carrying the steel rounded top of a barbecue grill.

Danny Edwards, standing on shore, rushes forward to grab the grill out of Hill's hands before the diver heads back underwater.

Jayson Hill and Danny Edwards

News-Argus/Barbara Arntsen

Jayson Hill, a diver with the Wayne County SheriffÍs Underwater Recovery Team, brings up the top of a barbecue grill while Danny Edwards stands waiting to grab it. The dive team spent Saturday afternoon retrieving trash out of the water as part of the Litter Sweep.

Fishing litter out of the waterway is a bit of an unusual task for the Wayne County Sheriff's Underwater Recovery Team. Usually the seven-member team spends its time looking for bodies, safes, guns or vehicles.

But on this sunny Saturday afternoon, they've decided to do a little extra for the biannual Litter Sweep.

A pile of trash is already scattered on the bank, including part of an old IBM computer and a tattered knapsack.

The three divers -- Hill, Chris Bezio and Chris Peedin -- are clad in wetsuits, because even though the air temperature is close to 80 degrees, the water is still a very chilly 45.

"We were out here on a mission a while back," explains team leader Bezio. "And at that time we noticed that people had been dumping stuff in here."

Bezio's team then decided it would come back later to get the bulky trash in the stream.

The dive team was formed by Bezio and Ian Barrett in 1997 and has gained the other divers since then. The divers have either part-time or full-time jobs with Wayne County law enforcement, but don't receive extra pay for being part of the team.

Lee Davis, the team's "tender" doesn't dive, but remains on shore to guarantee the diver's safe return.

Bezio says that's especially important when the team is diving in unfamiliar waters. Since January, it has been on 12 assignments.

"It seems like we get a lot of calls when the weather is cold," Bezio says. "And we have to chip away ice to get into the water."

But though there's no ice on this warm April afternoon, there are other dangers lurking in the water.

"Watch out," yells Edwards. "I think y'all got company over there, and it's not a log." He's referring to a long dark snake that has just slid off the bank into the stream. Edwards usually dives, but is manning the shore today because he's recovering from bronchitis.

A nearby resident who has wandered down to the water's edge to watch the dive operation says he's seen many a snake in the stream.

"I remember once," the man recalls, "when I was fishin' near that ole stump there. I looked across the creek directly, and I saw this big old water moccasin floating over."

He said he quickly left the fishing hole, but returned a few moments later with his shotgun.

"I took care of that snake," he said.

Luckily, this snake just swims away, ignoring the people in the water.

Soon, the divers begin hauling a number of items out of the dark waters, including a microwave, a chair, part of an air conditioning unit and a rusty old "Reduced speed ahead" road sign.

A little later the divers bring up two Johnston County welcome signs and one Wayne County welcome sign, peppered with BB bullet holes.

"After we saw all this stuff in here, we wanted to come back and get it cleared out," Bezio said. "This was a good time to do it."