Sub-ice training gives Ottawa Police dive team elite water rescue skills

Posted On Friday February 28, 2020
Marine, Dive, Trail Team
MDT was one of two police organizations invited to training

The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) Marine Dive Trail (MDT) Unit got a unique opportunity to do some sub-ice diving in Quebec City earlier this month.

They were one of two police organizations invited to the three-day training session organized by the Experimental Diving Underwater Group.

“We were lucky to get this experience to bring back to our community.” said OPS MDT member, Cst. Shyldon Safruk, who was previously a navy diver.  “They are the best of the best of the military dive world.” In total, eight members of the OPS MDT had the chance not only to dive under ice, but also in darkness, in zero-visibility exercises.

“Being under the ice can be intimidating, but the darkness brings it to a new level,” said Cst. Safruk. “The only light is from the flashlights we are carrying.”

In freezing water conditions, dives only last about 20 – 30 minutes. That’s because even with the best equipment, a human can’t handle much more than that. Fingers and toes feel the cold immediately. Fortunately, there are warming tents for the officers when they get out of the freezing water.

Using a helicopter cockpit which was sunk in a basin of the St. Lawrence specifically for the training, the MDT team practiced surveying and recovery.

Fortunately, water rescues are rare in Ottawa, but it’s good to be prepared. 

Cst. Safruk has been with the MDT Unit for 10 years and was involved in an underwater recovery several years ago after a vehicle went into the icy water in Fitzroy Harbour. “It was the coldest I have ever been in my life,” he said.