WINSTON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — A new remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is being added to the search effort on Smith Lake for Kelsey Starling.
The ROV was purchased after a GoFundMe established in support of the family generated over $60,000 worth of donations. Starling, 26, has been missing since a boating accident the night of Independence Day on July 4.
A member of the search team told CBS 42 that the equipment purchased is a DTG3 Underwater ROV which was confirmed by Deep Trekker Inc., the company that makes and distributes the unit. Deep Trekker also confirmed that a sonar kit was purchased to go along with the ROV as well.
“With the sonar, you’re able to paint a full picture of the seafloor bottom so you’re able to dive through and retrieve [the target] quickly and safely,” said Brendan Cook, marketing specialist at Deep Trekker.
Alton Starling, Kelsey’s father, wrote in a Facebook post that he believes the device can help bring his daughter home.
According to Cook, the DTG3 is able to dive over 600 feet below the surface, features a built-in camera that shoots in 4k, and has a claw on the front that can directly be used in recovery operations.
The waterways off of Wren Road where the teams are searching for Starling pose challenges with water depths exceeding over 200 feet in some areas and a forest of trees standing at the bottom of the lake.
Diving experts have told CBS 42 in the past that these conditions, combined with cold water temperatures deep below the surface, make for “extremely dangerous” situations for divers.
Cook explains that one of the central purposes of the DTG3 is to make rescue and recovery operations safer for dive teams.
“This added tool is just something for a dive team or a diver to go down and ensure that the environment is safe or for divers to perform higher risk recoveries,” said Cook, adding that in an ideal scenario a recovery could be made with the DTG3 without putting a diver in the water at all.
The Houston County Rescue Unit confirmed to CBS 42 that they are responsible for operating the device and it was first used in the search Tuesday afternoon.
Crews will be back on the water early Wednesday morning to resume the search effort.