A Fire Academy of North Dakota firefighter died Saturday during an exploratory dive in preparation for a training exercise in a Minnesota lake.
Firefighter Jim Reardon, also a photographer for the academy, was on an was surveying the lake in preparation for the Aug. 18 dive when he died, according to a statement from Fire Chief Darrell Graf.
The USFA is considering Reardon's death as occurring while on duty.
Graf was with Reardon on the dive as they were planning the drill to attract interested team members.
In a prepared statement, Graf explained what happened Saturday afternoon on Lake 7, a premier western Minnesota diving spot near Franzee, Minn.
"After a short time of diving, Jim and I somehow got separated, and I started looking for his bubbles on the surface of the lake, and after finding none, returned to the dock."
While en route, I found one of Jim's fins (flippers) and tried for about 15 minutes to find his location. With ripples on the water, it was extremely difficult to find bubbles, and began to look with binoculars and continued to search the lake - presuming Jim was probably videoing underwater," he said in the statement.
He added that he was growing more concerned. Upon hearing about the missing firefighter, a couple on a boat offered to assist, and Graf climbed aboard.
They were headed back after searching, Graf spotted Reardon, floating face-up about 30 feet from the dock.
"Jim had been to that lake on dives probably 25 times, as well as several other places. We were checking that renowned dive lake to conduct the pre-drill survey for a team dive," he added.
Graf said he and others suspect Reardon had a medical issue, possibly a heart attack. The diving equipment appears to have been working properly.
Efforts to revive him proved fruitless.
An investigation continues by the Ottertail County Sheriff's Department and Ottertail County Coroner, Graf added.
Reardon started working with the Fire Academy of North Dakota in 2010. He also was involved with Superior Wisconsin Marine Fire Training program.
Jim leaves behind his wife, Michelle, and four children, Cole, Taylor, Paige and Clare.
Visitation will be held on Friday, Aug. 10 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at St. Michael Catholic Church, 9251 Highway 25, Buckman, Minn.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, Aug. 11 at 11 a.m. at the church.