Smith Mountain Lake, a 20,600 acre artificial lake nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of rural south-central Virginia, unfortunately claimed the life of 71 year old retired business man James Hankla on Thursday, April 23rd. Hankla took an accidental step from a boat dock and fell into the water. Despite rescue efforts from a neighbor and the nearby boat operator, Hankla went under and never resurfaced.
The Smith Mountain Lake Marine Fire Rescue team was dispatched and quickly on the scene with rescue divers and a VideoRay Pro 3 GTO remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Smith Mountain Lake Marine Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Allen Cook had the following to say about the rescue operation:
"Last night the Smith Mountain Lake Marine Fire Rescue Dept. was turned out for a subject that fell off of a boat and did not surface. We responded quickly, Fire Member / VideoRay operator Diana Rainville quickly located the subject using the VideoRay, she had located the subject about the time divers were completing dive safety checks. Divers entered the water and retrieved the subject. Unfortunately the subject did not recover and a drowning did occur. This was a very quick operation and the VideoRay saved a bunch of time."
Smith Mountain Lake Marine Fire Rescue came to own two VideoRay Pro 3 GTO ROV systems when they were donated through the generosity of the Walter and Martha Curt Foundation last year.