A day with the Van Buren Co. Dive Team

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The place to be when the weather is warm is Michigan's lakeshore.

But a dip in the water doesn't come without risk.

There were three drownings this past weekend alone, and whether it be a rescue or a recovery mission, it's local dive teams that are bringing loved ones home.

Newschannel 3 spent a day training with the dive team in Van Buren County.

"A lot of times it's like your training, but it's really a call," said Dive Team Captain, Deputy Ben Ludwig.

For the dive team it's practice days that prove invaluable when seconds count.

"It is really important to come out at least once a month to stay familiar with your gear," Ludwig said.

With six divers and three boat handlers--all full-time deputies or first responders--it's all about communication.

This week, the team suited up on Lake Michigan, north of South Haven, making the 65 foot free dive to the bottom in less than 2 minutes.

"When we are out here on the Great Lakes, you can see 20 to 40 feet easily, in some of the inland lakes, you can't see your hand in front of your face," Ludwig said. "You have to rely on your computer or your compass to navigate under water."

Up top, the crew keeps tabs on the divers below, communicating with a headset, and steering those below in the right direction. They work with a grid to cover all areas, while making sure the boat is nearby.

"We can talk on the surface, and let them know how we are doing," Ludwig said.

In addition to the big lake, the team makes calls on more than 100 of the county's inland lakes, often assisting Allegan and Berrien County.

"Every lake is different," said Ludwig.

The team collects evidence as well as handling rescue and recovery.

"We try to do what we're going to do when we're called out, whether it's putting some object in the water or doing tow-bar activity," Ludwig said.

Van Buren County's dive team practices at least once a month.

They vary the place and location, because each dive is different.