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Difficult job made easier for emergency divers

Published: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 10:24 a.m. CDT

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McHENRY – When Chris Smith, 43, of McHenry, isn’t working as a printer, he’s a firefighter/EMT/diver with the McHenry Township Fire Protection District.

He’s been diving for a dozen years, and has been involved in numerous drowning recovery operations. Often, the search for bodies is conducted in zero visibility, in depths of 40 feet and more.

“Sometimes it’s a search pattern by hand in the dark,” said Smith, who said he’s involved in one or two body recoveries a year.

Smith said there are numerous body recovery systems, but “they have a lot of handles and a lot of zippers and take two divers to operate down there in the dark.”

Smith said it takes a “good five to 10 minutes” to insert the body into most bags, depending on the conditions.

“They’re clumsy,” he said of most body bags.

So he developed the x7ix Underwater Body Bag.

“I saw a tremendous need for improvement in recovery of drowning victims,” Smith said. “The body bags currently being used for such recoveries are cumbersome and difficult to use. Most if not all of our recoveries are done in water with limited to zero visibility. This puts the diver in a dangerous and stressful environment at a time when they need total awareness.”

According to Smith, there are more than 3,000 drownings annually in the U.S. The x7ix Underwater Body Bag enables the diver to effectively and efficiently place the victim in the body bag in less than a minute unassisted.

Smith said the body bag is made of a self-draining material that allows the water to drain out of the bag while providing a discreet removal of the victim maintaining the dignity ofthe victim and protection from public view for family and friends.

“My idea is to get the diver in and out of the water as quickly and safely as possible,” Smith said.

He said there is a $99 disposable version, and a $159 reusable model for training purposes. He said the x7ix, which is patent pending, has been getting a lot of exposure, and interest. “It’s very new. It has been well received by the diving community,” Smith said. “Numerous dive teams are inquiring about it.”

About five years ago, Smith developed the Penquin Ice Ladder, which attaches to ice, piers and boats, making it easier for divers to exit the water.

“Being a diver myself, I will continue to develop products to make our difficult job easier,” Smith said.

For more information, visit www.weebenterprises.com, or email csmith@weebenterprises.com.

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