Video of rescue and recovery operations (mostly rescue phase) at Sunset Meadows Park in Arlington Heights.
Video of recovery phase operations at Sunset Meadows Park in Arlington Heights.
A Rolling Meadows man, Alan Byrd, 29, went for a swim with a friend in the Sunset Meadows Park, which was flooded from recent heavy rain, and went underwater and drowned just before 1:00 p.m. Saturday. A rescue effort by Arlington Heights Fire Department was initiated immediately with Arlington Heights divers and the special rescue team for underwater rescue. At about 12:50 p.m. an extra alarm was requested for additional divers from area fire departments and SONAR equipment from Elk Grove Village Fire Department to respond to the park that is bordered by New Wilke Road, Kirchoff Road and South Dwyer Avenue.
The park which is usually home to soccer fields and softball fields looked like a good-sized lake Saturday afternoon. The ‘lake’ was apparently tempting for two young men, but tragedy struck when Alan Byrd went underwater and was reported missing. A woman from the Army base on Central was passing by and called 9-1-1 when she saw a swimmer struggling.
Diver’s immediately entered the water in “Gumby suits” and probed underwater with long poles to feel for a submerged body until special diver rescue teams with SCUBA gear, boats and SONAR equipment arrived and performed a more sophisticated search. Zero visibility underwater, heavy currents and a rapidly rising water level made rescue extremely difficult. The man’s friend helped fire department divers by pointing out where his friend was last seen. Divers could not see structures one foot in front of their diving masks in the turbulent and turbid water. A little after 90 minutes past the initial rescue response, the special rescue team classified the operation as a ‘recovery’ instead of a rescue. The man’s body was discovered near the center of the retention pond just before 4:15 p.m. A rescue technician monitoring the sonar display on shore had to communicate by radio with the boat firefighter, who relayed to the diver that the body was directly under him — only two feet away. A tedious process had already directed a previous diver to within 15 feet of the body of the victim. When that diver was almost out of air, another diver had to relieve that diver in a spot in the water that was marked to accurately pick up where the previous diver had left the area near the victim.
Firefighters carefully removed the body from the water to a small water craft, shielding the view of bystanders and family that had arrived on the scene. At least 50 people stood in the rain or under shelters to watch the special rescue and recovery operation at Sunset Meadow Park.
The power was disconnected to the park as a precaution to protect firefighters from electrocution from night lights used to illuminate the playing fields at the park. The lights are also equipped with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). A pump at the retention pond that is designed to increase flow of water out of the retention pond was turned off during the rescue and recovery operations to eliminate the chance of suction near drains and to minimize turbulence that would cloud the visibility in the water.
Arlington Heights Fire Department was assisted by fire departments from Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Highland Park, Hoffman Estates, Mount Prospect, Northbrook, Palatine, and Wheeling. The Arlington Heights Fire Department Water Rescue and Recovery/Dive Team is specially trained in open water diving, ice diving, deep-water diving, evidence recovery, swift water rescue, advanced open water diving, and dive-master operations.
In a statement to news reporters, Arlington Heights Fire Department Chief Glenn Ericksen alerted parents to keep children away from retention ponds and other water areas, especially when storms and heavy rainfall can bring unpredictable and dangerous conditions.
Alan G. Byrd leaves a wife and two children.
See also Side-scan sonar on Wikipedia …