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Dive team seeks new equipment

July 28, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Old rock quarries in the area now filled with water make good places for criminals to dump stolen items, according to Glen Stickel.

The merchandise runs the gamut, from cars and guns to jewelry and computers, said Stickel, a member of the Berkeley County Dive Team.

About six years ago when a dive team from Frederick County, Va., came to Bunker Hill, W.Va., to dive in a quarry lake to train, they found a box containing antique coins and a Rolex watch, Stickel said.

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The items were considered stolen, Stickel said.

"There's no (other) reason they would be put in there," Stickel said.

"You wouldn't believe what's in those quarries, especially ones that haven't been dove in in a number of years," Stickel said.

Although the quarries are a favorite spot to get rid of stolen goods, officials can do little to secure the items because they do not have the appropriate diving equipment to explore the cold waters, Stickel said.

The Berkeley County Dive Team hopes to change that.

Through a fund-raising campaign it has launched, the Berkeley County Dive Team hopes to raise at least $3,600 to pay for dry suits for the four-member volunteer team.

Dry suits are designed to protect divers from the cold temperatures in the quarries, which are fed by springs, Stickel said.

After descending 15 to 20 feet in the quarries, the temperature drops by about 20 degrees, Stickel said. At the bottom of the quarries, which can be up to 100 feet deep, the temperature can drop to about 40 degrees, Stickel said.

A dry suit has seals around the neck and wrist areas that keep divers dry, Stickel said. Divers can wear long underwear under the suits to help them stay warm, Stickel said. The suits also have valves on them that allow divers to pump them with air, which acts as insulation against the cold, Stickel said.

Stickel hopes to raise the money for the suits, which will belong to the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, through news stories about the campaign. He also has been visiting local businesses such as banks and pool shops in an attempt to get donations.

Stickel said the idea behind the Berkeley County Dive Team started two years ago when Cpl. Ron Gardner of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department - one of the members of the team - asked him about setting up such a unit.

Stickel, a certified dive master who teaches diving, said the group was able to get a rescue boat. Other equipment, such as breathing tanks and masks, are paid for by members, Stickel said.

The dive team rescued two drowning victims - one from the Shenandoah River near Charles Town, W.Va., and one from the Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area - last year. Dive team members did not need dry suits for those rescues because the water was not cold, Stickel said.

Rock quarries in the area filled with water after mining crews struck water in them, Stickel said. In some quarries, pumps are used to get rid of the water. In other cases, water rushed into the quarries so fast that workers could not get their equipment out, Stickel said.

Old quarries that now are lakes are scattered throughout Berkeley and Jefferson counties, said Stickel, who added that there are at least five in the Bunker Hill area. There are many scattered up and down Interstate 81, Stickel said.

"They're all around Martinsburg," he said.

Stickel said people dump stolen goods in the lakes to avoid getting caught with the items. Cars often are stripped and dumped into the lakes, and other cars are driven into the lakes for insurance purposes, Stickel said.

Once members of the team get the needed equipment, they hope to dive in the quarries periodically to check for stolen goods, Stickel said.

Checks for contributions can be made out to the Berkeley County Sheriff's Deputy Reserves and mailed to Cpl. Ron Gardner, 802-C Emmett Rousch Drive, Martinsburg, WV 25401. For more information, call Gardner or Kenny Lemaster, chief deputy of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, at 304-267-7000.

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