Police dive team speaks after recovering body of missing swimmer in Niagara River

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CITY OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Several western New York dive teams worked together to recover the body of a missing swimmer in the Niagara River this week. Divers found the man Wednesday morning.

“It’s nicknamed the chutes. It’s probably one of the most dangerous areas in this section of the Niagara River,” said Lt. Scott Sheehan of the City of Tonawanda Police Department.

It’s an area that even the most trained divers say isn’t safe. ‘The chutes’ or Little River in North Tonawanda presented a problem for several dive teams as they tried to recover the body of a missing swimmer this week.

“Unfortunately, usually when dive teams are called in because it’s been switched to a recovery operation instead of a rescue operation,” said Lt. Sheehan.

Lt. Scott Sheehan is the director of the City of Tonawanda dive team and has been a diver for 25 years. His 12 man team searched for 6 hours Tuesday. When they regrouped Wednesday morning, it only took 30 minutes for a diver to find the missing man.

Sheehan says when diving in this particular area of the Niagara River, the protocols and plans change.

“They can get about an hour underwater on a tank of air, when we’re doing something in the current like that and we’re doing something like that operation, that’s down to around between 15 to 20 minutes maximum for those divers,” said Sheehan.

It all comes down to where the person was last seen. Sheehan says they have to rely on witnesses in order to come up with their dive plan.

“You’re witnessing something that’s horrific, you’re not looking for details and unfortunately that’s what we need is the details,” said Sheehan.

Sheehan says he thanks to dive teams from Buffalo Police and Erie and Niagara County Sheriff’s Offices. He stresses people should never swim in that area of the Niagara River.

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