Drowning Victims

All there is to know about drowning victims like how to find them, what techniques to use in the search for them, what happens to them under water and cries for help from relatives.


This page contains extremely delicate or sensitive information that can cause a person to have psychological problems or worse. If a person was close with a drowning victim or is sensitive by nature or when one is not ABSOLUTELY sure the content can be red without ANY psychological problem, please ask someone else to investigate this page.


This page was written for those who are desperately searching for help or for information in case of a drowning victim. Our company receives on a yearly basis dozens of requests for help from private people and government agencies for locating a person that is assumed to have become the victim of drowning.

The goal is, among other things, to discuss all possible techniques and other means to locate a drowning victim as well as to assist GO's and NGO's (Governmental Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations) or private persons who are on a quest to find a missing victim of drowning.

Our company is frequently asked for it's expertise in (extremely) high tech equipment such as special sonar devices, magnetometers, metal detectors, GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar), ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) in case of general emergencies but also specifically in the field of locating drowning victims.

On this page, every possible aspect that is known to us and is thought to be of some help will be added in order to inform anyone that has interest in this. We will not only handle the in survey involved techniques but also the biological fazes and aspects involved in drowning. This is to give an overall view of how a body reacts to the environment in order to help locate it. Again we stress that this information can be very painful for all that lost a close person.

We will also give attention to specific cases in which a person is missing and believed to be drowned by means of separate pages where a family or person can ask for assistance. We ask from everyone who reads this to have a look at those requests. Please help where ever you can and spend some time reading the stories of the relatives.




What is a part of the "real suffer or pain" of the people that stay behind?

In past years Metaldec International encountered numerous events in which a drowning victim was involved.

The stories are all dramatic and we think that people who read this, should all understand that for every suffering person that stays behind, it is very important to know what happened to their loved ones. 

Speaking with those who are suffering,  we experienced that nothing is as bad as the unknown. Most people would prefer to know the truth, no matter how hard it will be instead of sitting in the dark and not knowing where their loved ones are or what happened to them. It seems for them very important to have closeure by knowing what happened. Then they can give their loved one a place of their own choice where they can rest ; a place where they can go to pay their respects and morn and remember or cherish their memory.

Why does logical thinking often not help these persons?

Although this article is about a drowning victim, we did not want to leave this part out. It is very important to know for all people who try to reason with the ones left behind that their vision of our logical reality is mostly the opposite of the person's vision that stayed behind.

For this maybe we better use an example of a real accident in which the parents lost their 29 year-old daughter. Imagine that there was a boat that sunk due to a collision with a freighter. Their daughter was still on board. The wreck was located by our company with extremely sophisticated equipment.

Video's and photos were taken, excessively from the collision area where the boat was sunk. The investigators (surveyors) approached the evidence, shown by the equipment with simple logic. The exact explanation was inevitable and without any doubt from the investigators point of view.

Yet the father did not believe his daughter came to rest at that spot where we found the shipwreck that could not be mistaken for something else. He even believed it was THE wreck in which his daughter went down. In short, he had still a lot of other doubts. The surveyor who found the boat of course once asked: "What is it that your mind still won't accept?" His answer was so very clear and for all that reads this  is clearly understandable.

He started his plea with the following words:

"No one ever did see the bones of my daughter and if they did, could they be not from someone else? I think that none of the survey team and others can give me 100% proof in this so I started thinking; if she was still alive, where would she be; what happened to her? Maybe she suffers from amnesia so she does not know where she is or forgot her way home or maybe some criminal holds her captive as a hostage. Then she COULD not come home."

He spoke many words of the same purport and it became clear to the team member that spoke to him that our rational thinking is often of no value to people in that condition. The father reasoned in the opposite way namely:

If she is still alive, what kept her all these years from coming home? This is the way the ones however, that never lost a loved one like that, probably reason:

She did not come home for so long, we found her shipwreck with the imprints of the freighter that caused the collision, we even spoke to the survivor (her fiancé) who went down with her in the ship but could not save her and saw her drown.  The ship was found (with some miles error) at exactly the right spot where it should be, etc.

IT IS MOST LIKELY OF NO CONCERN TO THE ONES WHO SUFFER. In their world logic in that particular part is gone and the reason why is very simple. It is HOPE that in every aspect will turn over the balance to them when it is put against reason. One must remember in such situations that the person is mostly "assumed" to be drowned, but still missing so what is logic worth to them?

It clearly shows that these people need help very much so they can pick up their lives and start the process of mourning and eventually can bare the pain of the things that happened. For the surveyor that tries to locate the drowning victim and / or missing person, they must keep constantly in mind that they NEVER will bring good news. There are namely two options:

  1. The victim can't be found so all hope for the people left behind that want to close the story is gone, however they keep hoping, no matter how little it may seem.

  2. The victim is found and will destroy all hope for a person that was left behind. He loses all hope to see their loved one ever again, while in the other case there is always hope but pain for the unknown.

    There for all that are involved in solving such cases should never think they can bring back a loved one. They will bring back a dead body and that is the harsh reality.

Who's job is it to find drowning victims?

In many countries several institutes, foundations, (governmental) organizations and others are involved in trying to find drowning victims. In the Netherlands, most drowning victims are searched for by governmental organizations like the Fire Department, Police, Coastguard, Royal Navy and Directorate General of Public Works and Water Management (Dutch name is Rijkswaterstaat)

Often a victim of drowning is first reported missing. This is usually done at the local police office that will examine the report and decide if they will start up a survey to find the person suspected to have become a victim of drowning. If the police finds enough reason to believe the missing person should be located underwater, normally they will start up the investigation for the period they think is sufficient.

In case of an accident (such as car in the water or a swimmer), usually the first officials that arrive at the scene are the Fire Department and/or Police that normally in turn informs some others like the Directorate General of Public Works and Water Management and/or Police department with special Side-scan sonar equipment and dredge teams including helicopters to assist in the search.

Who can help when the governmental organization do not or can't

In the Netherlands it will become extremely difficult to find assistance when the police or other governmental organizations do not find reasons to believe the missing person became the victim of drowning. People often search for years to find help without any result. The same happens when the officials are finished surveying and declare "the person can not be found". The people left behind mostly find the time that the officials used to search for their loved ones way too short, so they want to extend it but with what and whom?

The only known non-governmental organization in The Netherlands (at the time of writing this article) are the ones that are presented below. They train their dogs or practice with their equipment on a regular basis. Their drowning dogs are trained to smell the gas or odor that is released true the water column by a drowning victim up to rather extreme depths. The only foundations that already proved them selves and are known to the author at the moment of writing this article are:

SOAD (Stichting Opsporings Apparatuur Drenkelingen)
(Foundation Reconnaissance Equipment Drownings)

SOAD is mainly specialized in detecting drowning victims on the bottom by towing a special kind of dredge over the area of interest over the bottom. A very sophisticated system that has proven it's vital use a lot in the past. They can be contacted true their website or call their tel. nr. +31-(0)527-683442 or true the coast guard Centrum +31-(0)900-0111

SIGNI zoekhonden  (SIGNI search dogs)

The Signi foundation's goal is about the same as written above, namely to find missing persons using special dogs and some supporting equipment. However, they are mainly focused to finding drowning victims using drowning dogs and other resources.  

This article was also written to inform people what equipment or means are necessary or can be of assistance in a thorough survey.

What equipment can be used to search for drowning victims

Deployment of helicopters:

Helicopters are often deployed, mostly equipped with infra-red cameras as shown on the right-hand side that are able to detect temperature differences as small as tenths of degrees. 

On the left-hand side such photo was taken by the coast guard and shows a life raft in open sea with 9 survivors.

The infrared camera detects temperature differences and processes this data to a visual recognizable image. All objects have their own temperature that differs from other objects. When a relatively warm body is floating at the water surface, the generated or remaining heat in it's body causes the camera to see the difference in the surrounding water that has another temperature.
It becomes harder to detect a drowning victim as soon as it is cooled off excessively or is already deceased because the body temperature will drop rapidly and tries to take on the surrounding water temperature. However in the morning or evening, the temperature of the air increases or drops rapidly while the water temperature will stay about the same. This will cause an increase of chance to detect a drowning victim again because a body, alive or dead will adapt more excessively to the surrounding air temperature then the water does. All this is only relevant when the drowning victim is floating at the surface.

Deployment of boats with dogs:

An aid in searching for missing persons presumed drowned, is the deployment of boats surveying the surface in an attempt to visually locate the victim, also using binoculars. Often dogs are used in the boats to try to pick up the scent of a human.

It has been said that there is a huge difference in dogs trained to locate alive human bodies like in earth quake areas, and dogs trained to search specifically for deceased persons; in general by picking up the sents of a deteriorating human body.

One can compare it with a dog that was trained to locate drugs. It can never detect explosives and the other way around. Of course a dog can be trained on both as is with deceased drowning victims and earth quake victims, but we like not to comment on that because we are not specialized in that field.

The smell capacity of dogs is enormous compared to humans. Dogs can sense a human body, dead or alive, over a vast area, depending on wind direction and other factors. When a deceased body is in a decomposing state, the smell will be a lot stronger, even so much that humans can detect it also.

So for dogs it will be much easier to detect a deteriorating body and that increases as further the body is deteriorating. In the deteriorating process, when a body lies (deep) on the bottom underwater, it releases decomposing gasses that a dog will sense. The dog can penetrate  deep waters to find a body on the bottom, thanks to the molecular particles that are released by the decomposing body traveling to the surface and picked up by the dog's smell.

When this decompose process is done, it is harder for a dog to sense the diseased body but certainly not impossible.  In fact, in numerous cases dogs could smell a body some years later after burial for example or months later after drowning and lying on the bottom underwater.

Deployment of people on the shores:

Also people on the shore are sometimes put on watch to see if they can detect anomalies or objects on the water surface. Of course this is only possible when the water is not too wide. However, they often can search the fringes of reeds and bushes or shrubs on the bank of the river or channel to see if the drowning victim washed ashore and is stuck in the riverbank. That often happens.


Soon additional information will be added.


More information about drowning can be found here


We thank all people very much that helped in any way to find missing victims of drowning