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Sonar, FLIR cameras being used in search for missing diver

Using sonar and heat detection technology, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department is assisting the U.S. Coast Guard in the search for a missing diver off the coast of Mayport.
Using sonar and heat detection technology, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department is assisting the U.S. Coast Guard in the search for a missing diver off the coast of Mayport.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Using sonar and heat detection technology, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department is assisting the U.S. Coast Guard in the search for a missing diver off the coast of Mayport.

Monday marked the third day in the search for Timothy Obi, who went diving with his friends Saturday morning about 46 miles offshore.

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Much like a fire truck, JFRD’s marine unit has boats that are equipped with lights, sirens and hoses to put out a fire.

Apart from that, sonar detects objects underwater. It determines the water’s depth by sending sound pulses and measuring their return.

Some of the marine fleet boats can detect a person in the water based on body temperature. They use what’s called a FLIR camera, which stands for forward looking infrared.

“It’s like night vision,” explained Lt. Casey Geiger with JFRD. “So if, God forbid, you’re out in the river -- in the water in distress, you would show as a heating image on the search.”

A typical marine unit will search for three to four hours and then be relieved by another unit. For every emergency call, the goal and the feeling is the same: find the person alive. A thought that’s in the hearts and minds of fellow firefighters as they search for Obi.

RELATED: Coast Guard calls in more resources to search for missing diver

“We feel for the people. That’s why we do this job,” said Geiger. “We are here because we care, and you always want to have that hope we are going to find them and everything is going to be great.”

Volunteers have also used personal boats to help in the search. Anyone interest in joining the effort should contact the U.S. Coast Guard.


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