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The Sheriff's Underwater Recovery Team (SURT) is a component of the Criminal Investigations Division. It consists of six (6) highly trained and equipment public safety divers. This team is capable of recovering any evidence up to mid size vehicles and boats. The team can operate in any weather condition and has already conducted the following missions:

  • Weapons search at the spill ways of the Chickamauga Dam
  • Weapons search at a pond in Ooltewah, Tennessee
  • Recovery of a stolen motorcycle thrown from a bridge into Soddy Lake
  • Recovery of three stolen cars from the Suck Creek boat ramp
  • The underwater processing and recovery of a methamphetamine lab, in a sunken boat in Meigs County, Tennessee

The Sheriff’s Underwater Recovery Team is prepared to conduct underwater crime scene processing. The team’s mission does not include rescue. We at the Sheriff’s Office make no distinction between crimes on land or water. The same procedures that govern rescue team members on land, also apply on water. In the event life saving steps can be undertaken, the rescue of that victim takes precedent. Once it is determined that life saving measures are unsuccessful, rescue personnel are to leave the scene as intact as possible, mark the area if required, and move out of the crime scene. Rescue members are to assist in crime scene processing only if requested by law enforcement. Being dispatched to the scene in a rescue capacity means rescue only, not recovery. An Official request from the case agent responsible for investigating the incident is required before rescue personnel assist in crime scene processing.

Responsibilities and Objectives

  • Searching shoreline areas adjacent to the water to ascertain possible entry points for various objects
  • Searching areas near the water in order to rule out a land based recovery in instances where an object fell short of an intending hiding place within the water
  • Initiating search and recovery operations within the underwater environment, targeted at locating various objects
  • Locating and investigating the underwater crime scene
  • Retrieving evidentiary items from the water borne environment
  • Assisting in the investigation of all water related accidents to include but not limited to:
    • Swimming
    • Scuba diving
    • Boating
    • Aircraft
  • Investigating and retrieving water borne vehicles in relation to criminal cases and/or insurance fraud
  • When appropriate, conducting salvage operations intended to:
    • Remove the attraction of salvage diving by poorly equipped and inadequately trained recreational divers who may venture into dangerously deep or otherwise potentially dangerous environments
    • Assessing the possible evidentiary value of submerged objects and vehicles
    • Softening the environmental impact that results when gasoline and oil filled vehicles lie dormant within quarries, rivers, and lakes


SURT/Criminal Investigations Division
6233 Dayton Boulevard
Chattanooga, TN 37343
Phone: (423) 209-8940
Fax: (423) 209-8941


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©2014 Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office

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