Divers locate heavy equipment that fell into lake

May 18—After spending several hours searching the murky waters of Lake Sinclair at the U.S. Highway 441 bridge, divers have located the heavy equipment that fell off a work boat a few days ago.

The equipment, which consists of two parts weighing about 1,000 pounds each and valued at $10,000 each, was found late Wednesday by divers of the newly created Baldwin County Public Safety Dive Team.

The equipment is owned by J. Key Marine, a local construction company that does residential work on lakes Sinclair and Oconee.

"They were both found about 150 feet from the bridge about 5:45 p.m. Wednesday," according to Baldwin County Sheriff's Office Deputy Lt. Brandon Towe, who also is a member of the dive team. "They are in water between 40 and 50 feet. There's a lot of ups and downs in the area where they were found."

Towe said divers dove down where they thought one of the pieces of equipment was standing up.

"We began doing a circle search off of it and actually ran accidentally into the one that was lying down," Towe said. "It wasn't far from the other one, so we marked it with a water buoy."

Towe said the mission had been difficult for divers.

The reason: visibility.

"You can hardly see your hand in front of your face," Towe said. "The lake itself is real murky. The bottom composition and stuff — all the boats moving back and forth, and every time it rains upstream it gets worse. And the deeper you go, the less light you have. And with the less light, the more murky the water gets."

Towe said Deputy Brandon Clements found the equipment.

Towe said that divers had an anchor down and he was in the water sitting on it and holding a reel attached to the other diver.

"Because you can't see, he's going around in a circle, and I'm kinda controlling his movements," Towe said. "We were just doing what is called a circle search. And every time Clements completed a circle, I gave him more line so he was able to expand that circle."

Clements made less than a full round before he came across the piece of equipment.

Shortly after finding the two pieces of equipment, Towe said the owner of the business came out to the scene and got on one of the dive team boats.

"We showed him where we found it," Towe said. "He was obviously ecstatic about having located the equipment. He said that was going to help him in his business tremendously."

Towe said he and the members of the dive team, which was created last October, were glad they were able to help a local businessman.

A salvage operation, using a crane on a boat, is expected to hoist the heavy equipment from the bottom of the lake.