ROV aids in ATV rescue from pond

Near-death experience inspires search-and-rescue work

By Fran Gonzalez | Feb 11, 2020
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Special Agent Glenn Lang of the State Police Computer Crimes Unit, takes his ROV for a spin Feb. 4 at the Belfast YMCA. The device helped  retrieve an ATV from Crawford Pond in Warren recently.

Belfast — “It was kind of a strange thing — I died in the fall,” Glenn Lang said.

In November last year, he took the day off from his job as a special agent at the State Police Computer Crimes Unit, and while driving an excavator, thought he was having a heart attack. Lang lost control, fell forward and hit his chest. “When I hit the control on the excavator,” he said, "some have theorized, it started my heart again.”

Doctors determined that Lang, 54, has a genetic condition known as Brugada syndrome, which affects the rhythm of the heart and can cause loss of consciousness.  While lying in a hospital bed, Lang said, he had a lot of time to think.

“I pretty much died and got a second chance," he said. “I thought back to my 29 years with the State Police and thought of all the times I could have been killed.”

During his tenure, Lang was on the tactical unit for 10 years, was involved in two shootings, tracked an armed robber and was on the team that captured John Williams, who murdered Cpl. Eugene Cole, to name just a few of his cases.

In all his history, Lang said he felt “confident” that between himself and the efforts of the men and women he worked with, he could “live to fight another day.” The recent health scare, however, left him feeling he had no control over the situation and wondering why he survived.

His thoughts turned to things he wanted to accomplish but had not done yet. In a Feb. 4 interview with The Journal, Lang said, “I’ve always been interested in things that were buried.” Underwater metal detecting was a hobby he enjoyed growing up on Pitcher Pond in Lincolnville.

“The idea of an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) came to me, and I could not stop thinking of the possible uses,” he said. “One of my first thoughts was, I could use it to assist in searching for people who have gone missing in lakes.” So he bought one.

Lang told the story of two snowmobile riders who went through the ice on Rangeley Lake several years ago. Officials were not able to locate them for months, he said.

“Diving under the ice is extremely dangerous, and if the water’s too deep, divers can’t get to the bottom…,” he said. It “was brutal on the families and first responders, some of whom are my friends.”

Lang said there is no telling if the ROV would have found them, but it would not have placed any divers in danger. “I would have given it a shot.”

The ROV was recently put to use when two ATV riders drove into an area of open water Feb. 1 at Crawford Pond in Warren. The two riders were rescued by the Knox County Sheriff’s Department and the Maine Warden Service, and the ROV was used to tie a slipknot onto the ATV, which was then pulled out of the water. Lang said the machine’s claw was used to bring up the ATV riders' auger as well.

In retrieving the ATV, Lang said, police used a flat-bottomed jon boat with a rope tied to the back to be able to get close. From there, the ROV was dropped into the water, tethered to a cable that can extend up to 300 meters, with a maximum dive depth of 657 feet.

“It was kind of amazing,” Lang said. “Their 6-by-6 Gator, that’s a big machine. We were finding ice fishing traps and tiny little things. It was like finding the Titanic” when they finally hit upon the ATV within a half-hour.

The ROV has a screen, along with multiple joysticks, lights, a camera that records video, claws that can rotate and a compass. The compass is a very important feature, he said, because once in the water, it is easy to lose your bearings.

“The robotic arm can allow you to grab an object and pull 65 pounds of weight to the surface, which would easily allow me to retrieve a person,” Lang said. “The arm can also be used to attach rope or float bags to the sunken items that are larger.”

Lang is currently working on his own designs that would work in tandem with the ROV and extend its capabilities. “It’s like a dog sled with a crane,” he said of his design. The invention will be used to raise larger objects out of the water using a boom and would attach to an ATV “anchored” to the ice. The “ice anchor,” another of Lang’s designs, uses an electric drill to screw into the ice.

The ROV could also be used for commercial work, Lang said, to help pay for the machine. “I like my hobbies to pay for themselves.”

Recovery of sunken items such as boats, snowmobiles and other vehicles, as well as hull and mooring surveys, are all within the scope of the ROV, Lang said. “Another thought I had is, I can use it to remove trash from the bottoms of our ponds with a scoop I am designing specifically for that purpose.”

Lang said he is thankful for Deep Trekker, the Canadian company that produces the ROV, which offered him a discount when it learned he would be volunteering in search-and-rescue missions. “They worked a great deal for me to get it in my price range,” he said. “If I was to do it all again, I would buy another one from them.”

The Waldo County YMCA in Belfast also let Lang practice using his ROV in the pool, which he said has been a great resource to have. He said Aquatics Director Eryn Thostenson and Membership Director Bruce Osgood were instrumental in this arrangement.

Lang has started a GoFundMe page to raise funds to purchase an added sonar device for his ROV. Sonar, he said, “cuts right through the dark and murk,” making the search much more effective. For more information, visit gofundme.com/f/sonar-to-locate-loved-ones-missing-in-the-water.

He has offered his services, free of charge, to the State Police in searches for people who have gone through the ice. Maine All Terrain Search and Rescue has also asked Lang to collaborate, and he looks forward to hearing from other similar organizations.

Lang said he is excited about the prospect of helping people and continuing his community service. For more information, visit facebook.com/donate/2550445408404830/.

Here is the ROV that belongs to Glenn Lang of the State Police Computer Crimes Unit, shown at at the Waldo County YMCA Feb. 4. He purchased the device after a health scare last fall with the intent of using it for search-and-rescue operations. (Courtesy of: Glenn Lang)
Attachment claws fit on Glenn Lang's ROV to aid in search-and-rescue operations (Courtesy of: Glenn Lang)
Special Agent Glenn Lang of the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit designed and built this unit, which attaches to an ATV and aids in pulling up large items from the water. (Courtesy of: Glenn Lang)
An attachment, designed by Glenn Lang of the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit, to the ROV will aid in collecting items from a lake bottom (Courtesy of: Glenn Lang)
Here are the screen and controls on Glenn Lang's ROV made by Deep Trekker. Lang practices controlling the device Feb. 4 at the Waldo County YMCA pool in Belfast. (Courtesy of: Glenn Lang)
Glenn Lang of the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit prepares to place his ROV in the Waldo County YMCA pool in Belfast for a practice session Feb. 4. (Courtesy of: Glenn Lang)
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