MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 12, 2013

OHP takes to water in two new boats

Homeland Security funds buy vessels

— Oklahoma Highway Patrol Marine Enforcement Troopers got to test out two new tools Monday at Three Forks Harbor.

OHP Lt. Greg Giles said a $500,000 Department of Homeland Security grant purchased two new 27-foot boats in October. Trooper Ben Chapman and Giles traveled to Seattle, Wash., to train on the boats after they were built and are passing on their knowledge to about a dozen troopers on Muskogee waters this week.

“We do port security on waters from Fort Smith, Ark., to the Port of Catoosa,” Giles said. “We investigate all boating accidents, drownings and injuries on the water. We also act on behalf of the (United States) Coast Guard on inland waters.”

Two troopers, Lt. Kurt McKean and Chapman, opened the boats up Monday, getting a feel for the advanced technology onboard. McKean said the boat’s sonar equipment will cut down searches dramatically.

“This is important, when there’s a drowning, you want to find that victim as fast as you can for the family’s sake,” McKean said. “There’s nothing worse than just not knowing.”

McKean said the new equipment can help narrow down searches to where drowning victims can be located in as fast as 15 minutes.

An onboard camera displays an eerily accurate representation of the river’s floor, to the point that underwater objects even cast a shadow. The sonar can search up to a 30-yard range surrounding the boat, allowing troopers to do a quick, accurate grid search of the river bottom.

McKean said the boats will reach a top speed of more than 70 miles per hour. But those speeds come with a price — gas mileage on the 10,000-pound boats falls to just more than one mile per gallon at those speeds.

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.

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