Dive team takes part in search for kayaker

AUBURN – The Nashua dive team was among the agencies unable to find a Derry man in the depths of Lake Massabesic until it was too late.

State Fish and Game officials said 52-year-old Kenneth Fudge fell into the lake while kayaking with his fiancee around 5 p.m. Wednesday. Seven of Nashua Fire and Rescue’s dive team members were dispatched to the scene about an hour later, according to Deputy Chief Michael O’Brien, one of the dive team’s supervisors.

O’Brien said the divers quickly took over for other officials searching the area by boat and began their underwater search until efforts were called off due to the dark.

The 36 dive team members handle mostly rescue efforts, while the Nashua Police Department has eight members that take over when a mission becomes a recovery and conduct investigation, O’Brien said.

Something called the mammalian dive reflex makes it possible to resuscitate a person after up to two hours under water, O’Brien said. This is why the NFR dive team members responded to Wednesday’s rescue.

They were unsuccessful, however, and state Fish and Game officers recovered the body Thursday morning, O’Brien said.

Authorities said Fudge did not know how to swim and was not wearing a life preserver.

O’Brien said divers didn’t have any particularly difficult conditions to deal with Wednesday, aside from the fading light, since Lake Massabesic is Manchester’s public water supply and is therefore fairly clean.

“It was pretty straightforward from what I understand,” he said.

O’Brien said the dive team is activated several times a year and, although it is a dedicated city team, its members respond to neighboring cities and towns for mutual aid.

The team is a significant resource for the city, he said, because of the rapid response it can provide to either of Nashua’s two rivers or several ponds.

“Any community that has any amount of water would most certainly benefit from having a rescue team such as this,” O’Brien said. “We can put them within the city on the scene just like a building fire type of response.”

Perhaps the most important benefit to the rapid response times is being able to quickly talk to witnesses to pinpoint where the missing person was last seen. That information is vital, he said, since the rest of the rescue effort is based on it.

“The witness interview, I cannot stress how important that is,” O’Brien said. “The quicker you can get this, the quicker you can start the rescue.”