Pasco Swift Water Response Team conducts training exercises

- The Pasco County Sheriff's Office Swift Water Response Team put their skills to the test on Monday.

The Marine Unit, comprised of divers, rescue swimmers and deputies who pilot boats, participated in a monthly training exercise at Sunwest Park on Old Dixie Highway in Hudson.

The team practiced getting on their gear and deploying in the water using new inflatable rescue boats.

The sheriff's office was able to purchase three new rescue boats through community donations.

"We live in an area where there's a lot of water, a lot of lakes, we have the Gulf of Mexico, so even when there aren't storms, there's always some issue happening in our waterways here," said Lieutenant Jay Galassi.

The Swift Water Response Team was deployed over the summer during Hurricane Irma to assist residents living in flood-prone areas, such as the Elfers Community in Pasco County.

"We were going out, checking on people and helping people that were out in flooded areas that couldn't get to food and water," said Galassi.

In November, the team was also deployed after the plane crash of former MLB pitcher Roy Halladay.

"The entire team, with the inflatables, went out and secured that crash site. While we were securing that crash site, we recovered a lot of debris from the crash," said Galassi.

Mitch Bollenbacher, who participated in Monday's training, was also a member of the plane crash recovery team. He said monthly water training makes their team sharper and allows them to get familiar with their new boats.

"It allows high accuracy in trying to find an object in the water, say a gun or a knife or even a body," said Bollenbacher.

As of November, the entire Swift Water Response Team is now FEMA-certified.

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