Bulverde-Spring Branch EMS seeing more water rescues, will use new tool to aid recoveries

Aqualung Pro Diver will allow members of newly formed team to be underwater for longer amounts of time

SAN ANTONIO – Bulverde-Spring Branch EMS respond to emergency situations at both the Guadalupe River and at the opening of Canyon Lake, but as the population grows exponentially so does the amount of emergency calls.

But thanks to a new grant, Bulverde-Spring Branch EMS now has a new tool that can help save lives.

“Well, I think they’re all, you know, heartbreaking, especially for the family and for the guys who have to do that kind of stuff. You know, I don’t want to get into specifics, but you know, kids are always tough on all of us because we’re all fathers, grandparents,” Mark Southwell, chief of Bulverde-Spring Branch Emergency Services said.

Southwell has been serving the community since 1995 and has seen firsthand the huge growth in the community. With the influx of people, however, also comes the influx of calls for help and they have jumped from 400 calls a year in 1995 to 4,500 calls a year.

“Last year, we had six known drownings in the area where we could try to make recovery attempt -- versus a rescue attempt. A difference being time frame: one is viable and the other is more of a body recovery,” Southwell said.

But now, thanks to a more than $19,000 grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority, there is help on the way.

“What we acquired was funding to be able to purchase a specific device called the Aqualung Pro Diver,” Assistant Fire Chief Daniel Torres said.

The Aqualung Pro Diver allows members of a newly formed team to go underwater for longer amounts of time and still communicate with people above water.

“It increases the capability with our technical rescue services that we provide to the citizens of western Comal County. It’s just another layer of specialty for us to be able to provide to anybody in need in our response district,” Torres said.

There are still warnings that authorities have for community members, even with the new technology.

“We hope we don’t have to use it for other than training. Be safe on the water and avoid low water crossings like you should, like everybody knows too. And just be safe when you’re on the water. Don’t be too proud to use flotation safety devices, especially with children,” Torres said.

Southwell said he just wants the community to stay safe. He said he knows the risks of not having the technology.

“I mean, one (drowning) is one too many,” he said.

About the Authors

Max Massey is the GMSA weekend anchor and a general assignments reporter. Max has been live at some of the biggest national stories out of Texas in recent years, including the Sutherland Springs shooting, Hurricane Harvey and the manhunt for the Austin bomber. Outside of work, Max follows politics and sports, especially Penn State, his alma mater.

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