ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - New Mexico State Police say it happens all too often, drowning deaths that could have been avoided. Members of the State Police dive team are stepping up their training, and want the public to be more aware of what could save their lives.
Sunday, KRQE News 13 got an inside look at what it takes for the State Police dive team to conduct search missions, and unfortunately most missions don't have happy endings.
Bodies of water can be a places where families gather to have fun, but the New Mexico State Police dive team knows just how deadly they can be too.
"About 80 percent of our missions are concluded with recoveries of people that have drowned and that may well have been prevented," explained Sergeant Jeff Burke, of the New Mexico State Police Dive Team.
Sergeant Burke and Sergeant Doug Looney are part of the State Police search and recovery team. Sunday, they trained at Cochiti Lake.
Cochiti Lake was a crime scene in 2009 , when Sgt. Burke and another diver found four bodies, from what was then a nine-year cold case.
Sunday's dive was for practice, and testing equipment. The gear divers wear is about 80 pounds, weighted to keep them under during searches when they're often looking for evidence or bodies.
"There are a lot of hazards out there that you cannot see underneath that surface," said Sgt. Burke.
Burke said they've seen a lot of young people drowning in situations that could be avoided with a life jacket. In one case, two teens were pulled from Quemado Lake last month , stuck in mud underwater while island hopping.
Rushing waters have also proved deadly in flash flooding. A Santa Fe woman was killed in an arroyo after a nasty storm.
And recently, a teen died in Los Lunas while trying to get a cell phone dropped in a ditch of rushing water.
There are 14 members of the State Police dive team. When they're not searching, they're patrolling lakes to make sure people are safe. But they also want people to help themselves.
"If we can get public awareness, community involvement, we have that many more people out there to help us keep everyone safe," said Burke.
The New Mexico State Police dive team trains at least once a month. Burke said so far this year, they've seen about a dozen drowning-related deaths.
He added, often times, drowning deaths are alcohol related. The majority of these cases are during spring and summer.
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