The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office unveiled the latest tool in the department’s arsenal in maritime security and safety – a 27-foot boat that can be used for search and rescue in the mighty Mississippi.
The vessel, which is designed specifically for the dangerous river, has a metal bottom and is powered by twin 250-horsepower Yamaha four-stroke outboard engines. Not only is the vessel equipped with the latest navigation and communication equipment, but it is also capable of lifting heavy objects out of the water.
Sheriff Greg Champagne said that his department was previously limited in their ability to put a boat in the river because most of the Sheriff’s Office vessels have fiberglass bottoms, which could crack because of the logs and other debris in the heavily-traveled waterway.
While Champagne said the boat is designed to aid the Port of South Louisiana in providing security, it can also be used in recovery efforts.
"Unfortunately, we recover two or three bodies a year in the river," Champagne said, adding that local authorities learned a lot from last year’s recovery of Brian Reed’s body.
Reed, the brother of Baltimore Ravens Safety Ed Reed, jumped into the river and it took authorities three weeks to recover the body. In July, police recovered the body of 23-year-old Randall Boe, who had jumped off of the Hale Boggs Bridge.
With a current fueled by melting ice from the north, large debris that have traveled from as far away as Minnesota and freezing cold temperatures, chances of survival are minimal for anyone who falls into the river without a life jacket.
The Sheriff’s Office used a $145,000 grant to help purchase the boat along with a truck and trailer to haul it.
The boat was built by Metal Shark in Jeanerette, which has constructed vessels for the United States Coast Guard and other government and military agencies.
The top speed of the boat is 56 miles per hour.