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  • JW Fishers' Side Scan Sonar Aides South Dakota Search and Recovery Teams

    JW Fishers Mfg. has been producing Side Scan Sonars (SSS) since 1992, when the first thermal printer SSS was introduced. The original SSS came standard with a 17” thermal printer which allowed the operator to display the ocean floor on thin thermal imaging paper. JW Fishers expanded the technology and moved towards software-driven solutions in the mid-2000’s, allowing customers to discard the heavy paper-based printer in favor of a computer-based graphical user interface. Today, Fishers’ SONAR VIEW software provides the operator with complete control over the system’s operating parameters. Users may choose between 10 different scan ranges and 8 color schemes. With a GPS unit connected, position coordinates are automatically captured with the side scan data. Operators simply hover the computer mouse over a target and the GPS position coordinates are displayed on the screen.

    The James River, a tributary of the Missouri River, is over 700 miles long and drains an area of over 20,000 square miles to North and South Dakota. A little over 70% of this area is located in South Dakota. River conditions vary across the states, with some parts almost still while others send rushing waters at over 10 knots across the state. Floods often occur after snowmelt or heavy rains, as water easily breaches the James' low banks, and such floods tend to cover a significant portion of the floodplain.


    Beadle County is located in east-central South Dakota and is home to roughly 18,000 people. In December of 2015, the Beadle County Emergency Management (EMA) office purchased JW Fishers’ Dual Frequency 600k/1200k Side Scan Sonar system. The SSS is called upon when state and local waterways need to be searched or surveyed, and that is exactly what happened this year when two individuals and their truck went missing.


    In March of 2019, authorities reported that a 2000 Mack CH600 garbage truck was northbound on SD-37 near the James River bridge when the vehicle left the roadway. Based on the initial evidence, investigators believed there may have been an equipment failure. The vehicle went through the guardrail, vaulted an embankment, and landed in the James River. Authorities began searching the James River in Sanborn County after discovering a damaged guardrail along SD-37 near the James River bridge.

    Not long after the incident, the Miner County Sheriff's Office began receiving calls from family members of the two men, reporting that they had not been seen since Thursday. The Mack truck was located on Saturday during a search of the James River, and the bodies of the two occupants were found during the recovery of the truck the next day. Authorities reported that the speed of the flood waters on the river made the search and recovery difficult.

    A statement from the Department of Public Safety noted that several state and local agencies assisted in the search and recovery efforts. While any loss of life is always incredibly tragic, JW Fishers is immensely proud of its small part in the recovery efforts and in bringing closure to these two grieving families.



    08.05.2019. 07:06:19