Exclusive: Dive team that recovered Lake Lanier drowning victims - CBS46 News

Exclusive: Dive team that recovered Lake Lanier drowning victims speaks

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Michael Sam is a paramedic and public safety diver for the Hall County Fire Department. He was one of the three-man team who responded to three drownings on Lake Lanier on Sunday.

"Knowing that you did everything you can helps me go home and sleep at night," said Sam.

Sam is a member of the department's Marine Rescue Unit.

"With the double drowning we had, the first one we had, we depleted our supplies on the first victim we recovered, so we had to make do with what we had until we could get the second victim to shore," said Sam.

Leonel Torres, 50, and his son, Elton, 15, both drowned at about 2 p.m. Sunday near Three Sisters Islands.

About four hours later, Beto Silva fell into the lake and drowned near Old Federal Park.

"What concerns us most is that people are out here to have a good time with their families and then this tragedy just comes one after another," said Sam.

Hall County's Marine Rescue Unit is probably the busiest unit of its kind in the country. Since 2005, they have responded to 98 drownings, 72 of them fatal.

"We run all kinds of medical calls, trauma calls, everything that you would see out on dry land, we do on the lake, same thing," said Sam.

But working a call on the lake can take its toll because when divers go down searching for a drowning victim, they are all alone.

"What makes it the scariest part here, they [the bodies] sneak up on you because visibility is limited. They come up on you quick. You either feel them or they are right there in your face," said Sam.

That's why their equipment and training is so important. They have the manpower to handle situations but they don't have the right boat.

"It's a very small space and a lot of equipment. This boat wasn't designed for what we do. We are one of the few marine operations that are actually on the water patrolling," said Sam.

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