Searching below surface

GOLD BAR – They search murky lakes and rapid river currents for those who have disappeared below the water’s surface.

Those left standing on the shore look to the men on the Snohomish County Sheriff’s dive team to bring back those they have lost.

The divers are called out day and night, rain or sun, to search for missing anglers, boaters and swimmers.

The work is dangerous and unsettling. Often times, divers can’t see more than a few inches past their faces. They search the waters using only their hands to find a drowned swimmer or missing boater.

“It’s not easy, but we want to bring a loved one back to their family,” said dive team leader Sgt. John Flood. “We know most times they won’t be alive but at least we can give some closure.”

For that, the families are thankful, Flood said.

“It’s not something we look forward to doing, but at least this way they get to have a funeral and they know where their loved one is,” said diver John Adams.

The team is one of a few in the area and responds to all corners of the county.

Along with searching for missing people, they also can be called to hunt for discarded murder weapons or to hook up a towline to a sunken car.

“We deal with anything below the surface of the water,” Flood said.

The team is used about a dozen times a year with the majority of the calls coming in the summer months.

Deputies must have at least two years of diving experience before joining the sheriff’s team. Once accepted, they train with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The sheriff’s divers train 18 times a year.

Thursday, four divers took to the Skykomish River outside of Gold Bar to practice with Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue and Gold Bar firefighters.

The deputies used a boat tethered to a line strung across the river so they could learn to maneuver in swift currents.

The divers also worked with firefighters, teaching each other what needs to be done if a diver is ever in danger.

“This is probably the most dangerous job in the department,” Flood said.

The divers like the work, saying it’s a welcome break from patrolling the streets.

“It makes my wife happy that I’m not on the SWAT team,” diver Andy Cervarich said.

The divers keep their equipment in their own vehicles, ready to respond wherever there’s a need.

An old van rumbles as close to the water as possible, carrying extra air tanks, ropes and other equipment. The divers change in the narrow aisle in the back, which leaves little room to maneuver.

“We could use a new dive rig,” Flood said. “This thing isn’t fast or big enough for us.”

The divers often must race against the clock. The first hour is critical to finding a missing swimmer or boater alive.

Often it is too late, and most victims are missing one important thing.

“We’ve yet to recover someone wearing a (life jacket),” Flood said.

Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

People look out onto Mountain Loop Mine from the second floor hallway of Fairmount Elementary on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mining company ordered to stop work next to school south of Everett

After operating months without the right paperwork, OMA Construction applied for permits last week. The county found it still violates code.

Snohomish County Jail. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Arlington woman arrested in 2005 case of killed baby in Arizona airport

Annie Sue Anderson, 51, has been held in the Snohomish County Jail since December. She’s facing extradition.

A Cessna 150 crashed north of Paine Field on Friday evening, Feb. 16, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. The pilot survived without serious injury. (Courtesy of Richard Newman.)
‘I’m stuck in the trees’: 911 call recounts plane crash near Paine Field

Asad Ali was coming in for a landing in a Cessna 150 when he crashed into woods south of Mukilteo. Then he called 911 — for 48 minutes.

Snohomish County likely to feel more like winter, beginning Monday

Get ready for a mix of rain and snow this week, along with cooler temperatures.

The Nimbus Apartments are pictured on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County has the highest rent in the state. Could this bill help?

In one year, rent for the average two-bedroom apartment in Snohomish County went up 20%. A bill seeks to cap any increases at 7%.

A Snohomish County no trespassing sign hangs on a fence surrounding the Days Inn on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Meth cleanup at Edmonds motel-shelter made matters worse, report says

Contamination has persisted at two motels Snohomish County bought to turn into shelters in 2022. In January, the county cut ties with two cleanup agencies.

A child gets some assistance dancing during Narrow Tarot’s set on the opening night of Fisherman’s Village on Thursday, May 18, 2023, at Lucky Dime in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Drive-By Truckers, Allen Stone headline 2024 Fisherman’s Village lineup

Big names and local legends alike are coming to downtown Everett for the music festival from May 16 to 18.

Sen. Patty Murray attends a meeting at the Everett Fire Department’s Station 1 on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Sen. Murray seeks aid for Snohomish County’s fentanyl, child care crises

The U.S. senator visited Everett to talk with local leaders on Thursday, making stops at the YMCA and a roundtable with the mayor.

Anthony Boggess
Arlington man sentenced for killing roommate who offered shelter

Anthony Boggess, 33, reported hearing the voices of “demons” the night he strangled James Thrower, 65.

Brenda Mann Harrison
Taking care of local news is best done together

The Herald’s journalism development director offers parting thoughts.

Lake Serene in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. (U.S. Forest Service)
How will climate change affect you? New tool gives an educated guess

The Climate Vulnerability Tool outlines climate hazards in Snohomish County — and it may help direct resources.

Ken Florczak, president of the five-member board at Sherwood Village Mobile Home community on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
How Mill Creek mobile home residents bought the land under their feet

At Sherwood Village, residents are now homeowners. They pay a bit more each month to keep developers from buying their property.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.