All too often, when there is a possible drowning, boating accident or other water rescue, the search and rescue effort turns into a body-recovery operation.
The use of boats equipped with sonar, which measures the reflection of sound pulses to detect, or "see," underwater, has improved police and dive-team efforts.
But response times may be cut further with the use of radio-controlled sonar boats. That's why the Delaware County Child Abduction Response Team recently purchased its own.
"You control the boat like a kid's toy," said Shawnee Hills police Chief Russ Baron. "It operates like a water drone."
Standing on shore, operators simply place the craft in the water and maneuver it with a handheld controller. A video monitor projects images of submerged objects, large and small.
"A sonar boat allows us to check bodies of water very quickly -- quicker than assembling a dive team," Baron said.
If a victim is in very cold water, they sometimes can be revived even after prolonged exposure. Victims may prolong their lives in vehicle air pockets as well.
The inspiration for the device was borne of tragedy: the search by a Columbus police officer for his son who disappeared about 15 years ago.
Tony Luzio, 25, was last seen leaving a party in July 2005. For almost 10 years, his father, Sgt. Antony Luzio Sr., held fundraisers, pursued leads and prayed -- efforts that Dennis Watters heard about from his Illinois home.
Watters and his wife, Tammy, run a nonprofit organization to help search bodies of water for missing people.
Five years ago, after searching more than 300 ponds and lakes in Ohio, Luzio's body was found in his car, which had run off a road and into a retention pond near East Orange and Old State roads in Orange Township.
Owning one of the $10,000 sonar boats was a goal for retired Powell police Chief Gary Vest, who led the Luzio search, said Baron. The boat is named the SS Vest in his honor. Several agencies contributed toward its purchase.
Watters builds the 3-foot-long, 40-pound aluminum and stainless-steel vessels in his home shop in Moro, Illinois. Each is equipped with three independent sonar transmitters that can search in water up to 150 feet deep. They operate on batteries for up to two hours.
He has sold 12 of the boats, mostly in southern states or near his home.
"I built it for the purpose of finding the Luzio boy," Watters said. "We knew if we were to find Tony, I had to come up with a way to search those ponds."
Watters and his wife have helped in the recovery of almost 100 victims.
Luzio, of Dublin, praises the Watterses' passion: "If you sit down and talk with them, they are just consumed with it."
And Luzio hopes the boat may save a life and spare families the grief he has experienced.
"It certainly has the possibility," he said.