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BOWIE COUNTY, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – The Bowie County Dive Team is a nonprofit group that performs underwater search and recovery work for private citizens and local law enforcement agencies in the Bowie County area and beyond.

“We are all volunteers. There are people from all walks of life. We have firefighters, police officers and regular civilians,” says Chris Avard, president of the diving team.


They are often called to recover cars, boats or personal items, such as a recent operation on Wright-Patman Lake.

“There was a ski boat following him. The wake rolled over the back of the boat. The boat sank, luckily they had their life jackets with them. But his biggest concern was his truck keys, his wallet, his cell phone, everything was in the console of the boat,” says Erick Turner, the vice president of the dive team.

Sometimes, however, there is much more at stake.

“You know, if you've ever seen a family that's lost a loved one in the water that hasn't been found for a day or two, and they know they saw them go in. They want that person back, they want closure,” Turner says. “That's why I do it. You know, it takes a determined person to do what we do, not everyone is cut out for it.”

The training and skills required go far beyond what is required for conventional diving.

“In recreational diving you go to beautiful places with clear water where you can see things, but where we dive we see nothing. It's all black, we call it black water diving, everything is possible by touch. If you can see a foot away, that's unusual,” says Chris Sutherland, the dive team's training coordinator and safety officer.

They are the only group in Bowie County certified to do this work, which they say is critical to the community.

“Nobody knows they need us until they need us. And that's when the worst things usually happen,” Turner says.

Their entire budget comes from fundraisers and donations.

Turner had a long list of expenses for the team.

“These funds are used to buy new equipment, repair equipment, put tires on our vehicles. We drive up and down the roads and pull our boats and trailers behind us… maintenance on our truck. It's an older fire truck that we bought from the county. We use it to buy new equipment like our BCDs, computers, masks, weights, ropes, a lot goes into that. We had a lift bag a couple of weeks ago that was damaged when we were pulling a boat out in Greeson. A lift bag like that costs $500 or $600, it happens that it's a 10-year-old lift bag, but stuff like that, and that's where the funds go… boat fuel isn't cheap, you know. Other than that, it's mostly training operations, we have to stay current, we have to get new members up to speed, stuff like that… Other than that, insurance, we have to insure ourselves, our vehicles, our boats.”

If you would like to donate, you can make a Venmo transfer or send a check to 1910 N. Kings Hwy #903, Nash, TX, 75569.

They also encourage anyone who would like to learn more about their work and willingness to help to contact them via Facebook.

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