‘That sandbar is very, very dangerous’: A ride along with Warwick’s search and recovery team after Conimicut Point tragedy
WARWICK, R.I. (WLNE) – Following the drowning death of two people off of Conimicut Point over the weekend, we’re learning more about what goes into search and rescue missions with the Warwick Police Department.
Capt. Robert Hart took ABC6 on one of the department’s Underwater Search and Recovery Team boats Tuesday, explaining how prepared the team is for tragedies like the one they experienced on Father’s Day.
“The crews have been working extremely hard from the initial moment of the call, through the initial search and the secondary search yesterday. I can say they all worked very well together between police, fire, state agencies, federal agencies,” said Capt. Hart. “Teamwork has been tremendous and that’s what has allowed us to bring some closure to the family.”
The team trains twice a month for rescue operations and once a month during the winter months.
“High repetition, low risk. So we try to make sure we do this on a regular basis so we minimize the risk when we’re out there.”
On Sunday, the team got the call that they were needed at Conimicut Point.
“Me and Captain Hart were the first few people on scene on Sunday for the initial call for service that was a multiple drowning,” said Warwick Police Officer John Byrne. “We had gotten the call that the coast guard had located something in the water that they believed was the last remaining victim.”
Officer Byrne was one of the divers who recovered the body of 10-year-old Yoskarly Martinez. The body of 35-year-old Cardona Sanchez, a man who went in to save Martinez, was also recovered.
“Our team has been through this before, they have very good coping skills,” said Capt. Hart. “We can talk it out and understand that what we did is a benefit to the family, and that’s the most important thing.”
The team worked with the fire department and other local agencies along with the U.S. Coast Guard to pinpoint exactly where to search.
“We made our way down the sandbar, out into the water,” explained Byrne. “It was a hectic scene. No one has radios in the water so you’re not able to have any kind of contact with anyone other than the people you’re directly next to. I got onto a fire boat, they were able to bring me to the location where the helicopter was above the water. We exited the boat and made our way over to where the Coast Guard was pointing. So we were able to locate the last victim and provide closure to the family.”
Providing closure is what the team is all about, along with warning people of the dangers in the water, especially at Conimicut Point.
“We’ve had many drownings there,” said Capt. Hart. “The point in the sandbar is the area that you want to avoid. Unfortunately, it’s the most attractive. I think the primary thing is education, just getting it out to the public that while this is a very beautiful area, it’s great to spend the day, spending time in that sandbar is very, very dangerous.”