By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
A Homeland Security grant totaling $37,000 was awarded to the London-Laurel County Rescue Squad recently.
The grant monies will go toward the purchase of side-scan sonar equipment, which is primarily used for underwater searches.
And that’s what Chief Larry VanHook is ready to do.
Since July 5, crews have searched Laurel Lake for missing Berea resident Clarence Holmes.
Holmes went missing after a severe thunderstorm swept through the region, causing 7-8 foot waves at Laurel Lake. Holmes’ pontoon boat and his belongings were found on a small island, but nothing else.
But VanHook said this new side-scan sonar equipment could really help the rescue squad locate missing persons.
“This won’t be just for (Holmes),” VanHook said. “It’ll be for any drowning victims at Laurel Lake.”
VanHook said with the lake being so deep in some areas, “it’s hard to find somebody.”
“This new equipment will really assist us with all drownings at the lake,” he said.
During the December meeting of the London City Council, it was announced the grant monies were received by the department, and council members agreed to go ahead and get bids for the equipment.
“We’ll have bids back before the January city council meeting,” VanHook said. “We’ll of course take the lowest bid.
“If the lowest bid comes in over $37,000, we’ll come up with the money ourselves,” he said.
Training for the new equipment will begin as soon as the new sonar has arrived, VanHook said. The first ones to be trained will be the 16 members of the Swift Water Rescue Team and the Water Recovery Team, he said.
He expects the equipment in between mid-February and early March. VanHook said this will be great for the county. He said while they more than appreciated the assistance from various groups around the state in trying to locate Holmes, “they had to wait on their schedule.”
“Once we get the equipment and training, then we can start looking,” VanHook said. “And we’ll be on our own time schedule.”
He said in his 37 years with the squad, he only recalls one other person reported missing from the Laurel County side of Laurel Lake.
On June 27, 1982, Patricia Hale Liford, of Tuttle, was involved in a boating accident near the Craig’s Creek Branch of Laurel Lake. Liford, who was 29 at the time of the accident, was boating with Sammy Sturgill, Bobby White and Lloyd Jones when the accident occurred. Her body has never been recovered.