Author Topic: Johnson Outdoors' Humminbird fish finder increasingly used for Search-and-Rescue  (Read 6379 times)

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Offline RGecy

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Johnson Outdoors' Humminbird fish finder increasingly used for Search-and-Rescue
Cops hooked on sonar device made for anglers
The Business Journal of Milwaukee - by Rich Rovito

Sam Lapinsky visited a South Florida lake this week with a Humminbird fish finder and the resolve to pinpoint a real whopper.

But Lapinsky wasn't fishing -- and he wasn't using the Humminbird sonar device to look for catfish or anything else with gills.

As a member of the Broward County sheriff's dive rescue team, he and his colleagues were using the boat-mounted Humminbird to find a vehicle that had made its way into the murky waters.

"Cars run into (local waterways) in accidents in the middle of the night," Lapinsky said March 5, after successfully tracking down a sunken pick-up truck. "Other times, stolen vehicles are stripped and dumped there."

The Humminbird, which generates picture-quality images of what's beneath the surface, "gives us the ability to act quickly and in depths of water that aren't too terribly deep."

Made by Racine-based Johnson Outdoors Inc., the Humminbird is designed to guide fishermen to the best place to drop a hook and worm.

But law enforcement and other search-and-rescuers are, increasingly, finding the device valuable in locating other objects below the surface -- from cars to bodies to small planes. One of the machines was even used in unsuccessful water searches for missing Chicago-area mom Stacy Peterson.

Officials at Johnson Outdoors are now adapting to this trend in hopes of capturing even more sales.

In recent months, the company began aggressively marketing the product to law enforcement, said Judy Douglas, senior marketing director for Johnson Outdoors' marine electronics division.

"We've really stepped it up," she said.

Aside from targeting new suppliers, the company also has a formal marketing plan in place that goes beyond the "word-of-mouth" testimonials by police officers at trade shows, she said.

Impressive purchase
Broward County first began using the fish finder after a member of the dive rescue team purchased one from an outdoor gear store more than a year ago.

"We were so impressed with what it did that we went out and bought three more," Lapinsky said.

They typically cost $1,000 to $3,000 each.

Larger sonar units tend to work better in deep water and provide clearer images, but aren't as cost effective and don't offer the convenience of the Humminbird, Lapinsky said.

The compact size allows the sheriff's office to keep it permanently mounted to a rescue vessel, he said.

Dennis Watters and his wife, Tammy -- who compete in fishing tournaments -- said they were testing a Humminbird fish finder in the Mississippi River in 2005 when an image of a car appeared on the sonar screen. The car turned out to contain the body of a missing teacher who had driven into the river three years earlier.

The Watterses, who reside in Moro, Ill., a small town near the Missouri border, then began volunteering their services in search-and-rescue missions and used a Humminbird fish finder to locate the body of an 8-year-old boy from a lake in central Illinois in March 2007.

They said they recently returned from trips to Texas and Georgia where they assisted in recovering the bodies of two drowning victims.

They also got involved in the search for Peterson, spending a month searching waterways in the southwest suburbs of Chicago using a Humminbird. Peterson, 23, remains missing, and her husband, retired cop Drew Peterson, is a suspect in her disappearance.

A key driver of sales of the device is the side-imaging sonar technology, which provides clearer images than other fish finders.

"It takes all the guesswork out of sonar," Douglas said. "It's as if you are seeing an underwater image. It comes back looking like an ultrasound."

The technology also covers "an enormous amount of water," reaching 240 feet from either side of a boat, Douglas said.

View the entire article here at
« Last Edit: April 25, 2009, 05:21:58 PM by RGecy »
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