About The history and and background of GSURU
Unit picture from October of 2009.
We are primarily an underwater recovery agency which provides public safety services throughout NJ and surrounding States. Our primary mission is recovering the bodies of those who have drowned. We also participate in water rescue operations associated with hurricanes and other tragedies, as well as provide support at water-related community events such as triathlons. Finally, we teach courses in areas such as ice rescue and recovery, swift-water survival skills, and basic water safety.
The Garden State Underwater Recovery Unit was originally formed in 1958 by five scuba divers from the Milford/Phillipsburg NJ area and officially incorporated twoyears later in 1960. The Unit was the result of a desire by these men to do something good for their community and, at the same time, indulge their passion for the then very new sport of scuba diving. (As an organized sport, diving was only about 10 years old at that time.) Our original mission was the recovery of the remains of those who had drowned along the Delaware River.
Until the early 1960's, recovery of drowning victims was accomplished by the old fashioned and rather barbaric method of dragging the river bottom with an array of large grappling hooks. As often as not, these hooks were nothing more than the largest available treble hooks used for fishing. There was no official agency which did this kind of work, and the task often fell to local fire departments aided by a small group of river rats who had grown up on the river and knew its every eddy and sluice hole.
According to the late Steven Hardick, a former Captain and son of one of the founding members, those who formed GSURU realized that there had to be a better way to recover the bodies of those who had drowned. They decided to put their new SCUBA skills and equipment to work and formed a group dedicated to going out into the river at any time or place and searching for victims so that their bodies could be returned to their families and given proper burials. Since there were no official textbooks or lesson plans on how to do this work, the founding members just made it up as they went along. Eventually, they developed a set of general rules and rough guidelines for doing the job safely and efficiently. Along with some other instructors, Steve oversaw the creation of the country’s first textbook on Underwater Search and Recovery.
Our mission today remains primarily focused on the recovery of drowning victims, but has expanded since the early days to include recovery of criminal evidence, light salvage work, underwater inspections and public education in the many areas of water safety. Unlike most fire departments and rescue squads, we do not have a specific coverage area, and will travel to just about anywhere we are asked to help out.