Marine Unit performs life-saving services

Published 12:28 am Sunday, July 24, 2022

ORANGE COUNTY — When an elderly man had trouble with his boat not starting while out fishing last week during 100-degree weather, he found help from law enforcement.

Members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit stepped in quickly, bringing with them water and basic first aid and were able to tow the man back to shore.

When a woman suffering from a mental health issue reportedly jumped from the Rainbow Bridge, the Marine Unit was there to assist other responding agencies.

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And when a man was ejected from his boat in April after striking a bridge pylon in Little Cypress Bayou, the Marine Unit was there, as well.

The OCSO Marine Unit’s 25-foot Defender Class boat, left, and 22-foot Skeeter center console boat. (Courtesy photo)

Who are they and what do they do?

The OCSO Marine Unit consists of four Coast Guard-licensed boat captains along with other OSCO deputies who work together on calls.

The Marine Unit is not a fulltime division, though they respond to a variety of calls.

Capt. Joey Jacobs, a licensed captain, said the Unit has four boats: a 25-foot Defender Class that features twin 250 hp engines with radar and down side scan imaging, a 22-foot Skeeter center console boat that can handle shallower water and can be operated by one captain, a small aluminum craft boat that can be used for smaller bodies of water, such as ponds, and an airboat.

“This time of year, we get a lot of stranded boaters,” Jacobs said. “We also respond to search, rescue and recovery. We do some waterway patrols and offer assistance around the Port of Orange and respond to waterway accident incidents.”

The OCSO Defender Class boat. (Courtesy photo)

They also have Homeland Security type duties, and everything is chronicled and noted from fuel logs, vessel identification and more.

The Marine Unit covers a large chunk of territory and can basically leave the boat house in Orange and respond all the way to the salt water barrier on the Neches River. Depending on time of day and traffic, they may opt to bring the responding boat via trailer.

The Marine Unit has strong working relationships with other agencies, Jacobs said. They include Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit, U.S. Coast Guard and Calcasieu Parish authorities.

Sheriff Jimmy Lane Mooney said the Marine Unit works hand-in-hand with other agencies and offers mutual aid to nearby Louisiana, but there is a focus for the division.

“The main purpose of the Marine Unit is to save lives on the waterway,” Mooney said.