Orusa is the director of the International Association of Dive Rescue Specialists (IADRS) Response Team, and a published author on the subject of emergency water rescue, including the book “Dive Rescue Specialist: Operational Training for Public Safety Divers” (2007).
On Jan. 13, the $570 million Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground and partially sank off the western coast ofItaly. As of Jan. 17, the Italian Coast Guard reported casualties at six dead and 29 missing of the more than 4,200 passengers and crew onboard, as reported by CNN International. The ship is owned by a British-American subsidiary of Carnival Cruise Lines.
“There are so many challenges for divers,” Orusa said, “entanglements, contamination in the water, weather … zero visibility. People think the water is dark. It’s not dark. It’s dirty. You’ve got brackish water, debris, fuel … everything that was in that ship is in the water.”
Orusa has been a diver for the IADRS since 1990, and response team director since 2006.
“The mission of the response team is … if a family or a port authority has exhausted all of their resources to recover a victim lost in a water accident, we help them,” Orusa said. “We bring a level of expertise that many organizations don’t have.”
The IADRS is a non-profit organization funded by donations and private partnerships which allow rescuers to operate all around the world. Orusa has been part of dive operations ranging from Ecuador to Afghanistan to Alaska, he said.
With danger from weather and the instability of the Costa Concordia in its current position – aground only for now atop rocks in shallow water – Orusa said the unfortunate truth is that the bodies of many passengers may not be recovered until the cruise ship is freed.
“There’s two distinct modes of operation,” he said. “There’s rescue mode, where you’re willing to risk the life of a diver to save a life. That’s usually the first 60-80 minutes. Then there’s recovery mode. The risks you’re willing to take then are different.”
By Jordan Fischer