St. Clair County Dive Team

Posted on July 29, 2019

In 2017, Wayne and Donna Brusate’s passion for the St. Clair County Dive Team led them to initiate an endowment fund to support search and rescue divers. They are calling on the community to join them in their support. 

“Our Dive Team nonprofit does a great job in supporting the team with equipment projects and urgent repairs, but what the Team needs is financial stability on a long-term basis with the endowment fund,” said Wayne Brusate. “This is my forty-eighth year serving on the Dive Team and I believe that I have a couple more years left to give.  I know that with the support of the leaders in our community we can build an eternal fund that will help save lives even after we are gone.”

Wayne understands what a family goes through when a loved one is missing, Wayne lost his father and brother in a drowning incident in 1990. Usually, until dive team services are required in an emergency, they tend to operate under the radar and underfunded.

Today the Dive Team has a County budget of around $25,000 per year.  Wayne says this covers less than half of what the 24 person team spends annually on equipment, repairs, training and rent.  “Without donations and the hard work team members put in on their own time, we would not be able to provide our community with the dedicated response they deserve,” Wayne said.

Needs for the dive team include things like upgrading the electrical system that is not up to code in the J.H. Simpson vessel that has been involved in many local rescue and recovery operations. Side scan sonar is also needed to look 50 to 100 feet on each side to find drowning victims when a witness cannot provide a last known location - current radar is over 10 years old. Underwater communication between divers and topside tenders is also necessary to make it safer for the diver, but also increases the chance of saving a life by making the underwater search more efficient. To equip a single diver with communications costs more than $2,600.

Thanks to donors like Wayne and Donna Brusate, they are thinking now about the current and future needs of the dive team and want to make sure our local divers have support through the growth of the St. Clair County Dive Team Fund.

Wayne joined the St Clair County volunteer Dive Team in 1971.  In the 1970s and 1980s the Dive Team responded to an average of 10-12 recovery operations a year.  There was no funding for the team back then and each diver had to provide his own equipment and cover their expenses.

You can support local operations of the Dive Team “today” through an ice cream social being hosted at the Milkhouse Café on July 30 from 3-10 p.m. Those who want to help support the divers “tomorrow” can donate to the Dive St. Clair County Dive Team Fund through the Community Foundation. 

The community so greatly appreciated the Dive Team’s recent efforts that our H & H Whiting Fund and the St. Clair Foundation Fund are providing a combined grant of $5,000 to the Dive Team Fund in honor of their recent work in the St. Clair River in search for Riley Gleason.

St. Clair County Dive Team operates primarily as a rescue team instead of a search and recovery team. Cold water near-drowning cases show there is a possibility of a drowning victim surviving nearly one hour underwater with the right conditions. That is why the local dive team responds in “rescue mode” when a life may be saved, regardless of borders.


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