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NJ Firm Uses High-Tech Toys in Search for Murder Case Evidence

Aug 05, 2011

Eric Wartenweiler Smith

This past week, Flemington-based Aqua Survey participated in a forensic investigation that is looking for new evidence in a murder case that dates back to the mid-1970’s. On November 13th 1974, six members of the DeFeo family were found shot to death in their Amityville, Long Island, New York home.  The eldest son Butch DeFeo was tried and convicted for the murders.  The aftermath of the shootings served as the inspiration for the 1979 film, The Amityville Horror

Aqua Survey was contracted by filmmaker Ryan Katzenbach to use its proprietary electromagnetic (EM) survey technology to look for a specific piece of evidence which is thought to have been discarded in the nearby Amityville Canal.  Katzenbach is currently producing a documentary entitled Shattered Hopes which will examine the DeFeo murder case with a strong focus on the family and the events leading up to the murders. 

A specially designed EM metal detection device, designed by Aqua Survey, was maneuvered by divers over an area roughly a half acre in size.  Aqua Survey originally developed the technology to detect underwater unexploded ordnance (bombs) and treasure.
Aqua Survey president Ken Hayes said, “While unable to disclose what exactly we’re looking for, I can say that it’s a metallic object weighing in at roughly three pounds.  If it’s there, our team will find it.”

Aqua Survey’s Manager of Marine Operations, Mark Padover led the survey which concluded this past Thursday.  “Over 100 possible targets were identified in the survey area. It’s a heavily developed waterway so there’s bound to be a lot of metallic debris,” stated Padover.  “The next step will be to have divers examine each of these pinpointed anomalies to determine if any of them are in fact the sought after evidence.”

Accompanying Padover was Aqua Survey’s Senior Archeological Diver, Eric Wartenweiler Smith.  Smith is a veteran member of world renowned archeologist Franck Goddio’s dive team.  With Aqua Survey’s support Smith accompanies Goddio, who discovered Cleopatra’s sunken palace off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt, on his yearly expedition to continue excavation of the palace as well as search for new historical sites.

Smith commented on the EM equipment, “Aqua Survey’s new technology opens up a lot of exciting opportunities for undersea discovery. Working with these new tools has me switching from searching for historic shipwrecks, bombs, torpedoes, and crime evidence on a weekly basis. I can’t wait to see what we find next!” In regards to the Amityville project Smith remarked, “I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the finished dive-out. If we find what we’re looking for, it could have drastic ramifications for the verdict of this notorious murder case.”

Later this month Padover will be travelling to Walker Lake, Nevada to lead an Aqua Survey team of scientists.  Smith is also headed to Nevada to assist Padover and then to Egypt to resume his work with Goddio.  For the Nevada project, they will be putting the same EM coil technology to use for its original purpose of finding underwater bombs as well as using a variety of other advanced remote sensing geophysical tools, such as transverse gradient magnetometry, side scan sonar and bathymetry.  Over 50 square miles in size, Walker Lake is adjacent to the Hawthorne Army Depot, one of the largest ammunition storage depots of its kind in the world. 

Aqua Survey, founded in 1975 by Hayes, characterizes sediments and shorelines by geophysical survey, sampling, contaminant studies and archeological investigations.  They pinpoint bombs/munitions, locate lost treasure and weapons, assess environmental toxicity and guide marine archeologists worldwide.  Aqua Survey is headquartered in Flemington, NJ.

“Whether we are locating bombs, ship wrecks, missing cargo, forensic evidence or profiling contaminants in water bodies, work is always an adventure,” said Hayes.  Next month Hayes heads to Southeast Asia to demonstrate a new Aqua Survey tool that can detect 500 pound Viet Nam War-era bombs that are deeply buried in the Laotian jungle.

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Aqua Survey Unveils Dredger’s Smart Pipe

Jun 08, 2011

WEDA 2011 Dredger's Smart Pipe

Earlier this week Aqua Survey unveiled their latest innovation at the Western Dredging Association’s 31st conference in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Beach replenishment projects face costly setbacks when munitions are dredged ashore.  Providing a simple solution to an expensive problem, the Dredger’s Smart Pipe will alert its operator when metallic objects are traveling through their dredge’s discharge pipeline.  The system will detect munitions, bomb fuses and other metallic objects. 

Aqua Survey will provide technician training.  Orders for the Dredger’s Smart Pipe are being accepted for late Fall 2011 deliveries.

Learn More Here

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Dr. Doi to Present at Third International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions

Apr 12, 2011

Environmental Risks of UXO/MEC
Contaminants in Sediment Addressed
by Laboratory Toxicity Testing

Jon Doi, Ph.D., Aqua Survey, Inc.

The primary focus of the detection and removal of underwater munitions has been for the acute effects on humans, i.e., bombs exploding.  However, the greater concern may be on the environmental effects of bomb constituents (propellants and explosives) leaking from bombs for considerable lengths of time. This talk will cover a number of topics on the surveying, sampling and laboratory toxicity testing of UXO/MEC in sediments. There will be a brief discussion on the use of various EM survey devices for UXO/MEC detection and on the sampling techniques used for UXO/MEC-contaminated sediments.  The main part of the talk will be on how our laboratory deals with these types of sediments in the laboratory and what tests are useful. Before the sediment is opened for homogenizing and compositing, it is scanned for possible UXO/MECs. The choice of the type of toxicity test to perform (acute, chronic, freshwater, marine or bioaccumulation), the organism chosen, the conditions of the toxicity test are all important decisions to be made in order to determine whether the sediment is likely to have an impact on the benthic community at the UXO/MEC contaminated site. The identification of bomb constituents and possible toxicity associated with these contaminants will be discussed.

Click here to view the meeting agenda.

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Mar 24, 2011

Aqua Survey’s Dr. Jon Doi will be a platform speaker on Friday April 15th at the THIRD INTERNATIONAL DIALOGUE ON UNDERWATER MUNITIONS held in Sopot, Poland.  The title of Jon’s presentation is Environmental Risks of UXO/MEC Contaminants in Sediment Addressed by Laboratory Toxicity Testing.  As excited as we are to see Dr. Doi and the other speakers present, being in country with as rich a cultural history as Poland also has a charm to it.  Take for instance, the castle in the nearby town of Malbork, the construction of which was begun in the late 1200’s by the Teutonic Order.  Having endured everything from medieval siege warfare to WWII bombing the Castle of Malbork has stood the test of time.  Many claim that Malbrok Castle is the largest Gothic fortification in Europe.  At one point it held more than 3,000 troops within its walls.  To read more about the history of this castle click here.

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Introducing the R/V Tesla

Jan 17, 2011

R/V Tesla Jetboat

Specialized Sampling and Surveying in Challenging Environments

Aqua Survey has just acquired its first landing craft-style jet-boat.  This shallow-draft vessel will be able to work at sea and also be able to land personnel and heavy equipment, such as all-terrain vehicles and vibracoring equipment, right on a beach.  We have named the 30-foot research vessel The R/V Tesla to honor the inventor Nicola Tesla who gave the world electric motors, electromagnetic coils, fluorescent lighting and radio-controlled electric boats.  Tesla was awarded over 700 patents.  His electromagnetic coils paved the way for the time-domain metal detection coil arrays we will be using from this vessel to map submerged pipelines, locate unexploded bombs and find Spanish treasure.  Maybe Tesla would have not appreciated the vessel’s two 450 cubic inch internal combustion engines, but we are quite sure he would have approved of the advanced geophysical remote sensing equipment and our Rossfelder alternating current electro-vibracoring systems.  Interestingly, the builder of this vessel has built the high-performance stunt boats used in recent James Bond movies.  Tesla would have enjoyed the gadgets in Bond films.

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UXO Found Near Major NYC Bridge

Oct 24, 2010

USS Bennington

If you were to ask the nearly 200,000 people that go over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge each day about what their biggest concern was about their commute, probably very few of them would mention anything about a lost barge-load of military munitions tucked neatly under the world’s eighth largest suspension bridge.

It wouldn’t have been on my list of concerns either, until last Saturday night when I received a call from commercial diver Gene Ritter who had made an alarming discovery underneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge: a stockpile of abandoned military munitions ranging in size from five foot shells designed to take down aircraft to over a thousand large caliber machine gun shells engineered to explode upon impact.  Intrigued, but also reminded of the 3 R’s of UXO encounters (Recognize, Retreat, Report), I cautioned Gene to discontinue diving on the targets and to alert the proper authorities.  I also offered to have Aqua Survey, from a safe distance, perform a side scan sonar survey of the area as a public service.  We did so last Sunday and provided a report to the authorities.

The recently discovered munitions are believed by some to be part of a cache of nearly 15,000 pieces lost in a barge accident after being off-loaded from the USS Bennington in 1954.

Further investigation, recovery and disposal of these munitions should be left to the proper authorities. Absolutely no one else should attempt to dive or anchor in this area.

-Ken Hayes

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Aqua Survey Staff Member Presents at the Franklin

Oct 16, 2010

Eric Wartenweiler Smith

Saturday, October 16th, Philadelphia, PA - over a hundred people jammed into the Franklin Institute’s auditorium to hear Aqua Survey captain and marine archeologist Eric Wartenweiler Smith present on his work with world-renowned archeologist Franck Goddio.  Smith, who divides his time between Aqua Survey and Goddio, has been a member of Goddio’s dive team for over a decade, most notably diving on Cleopatra’s sunken palace off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt.

The event’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect as the Franklin is currently displaying an exhibit entitled Cleopatra: the Search for the Last Queen of Egypt, which displays many artifacts discovered by Goddio and his team, including a man-sized sphinx (pictured above) discovered by Smith himself.

After giving an hour presentation in which he discussed what it is like to dive on a sunken Egyptian city, as well as going into detail on several of his other globe-trotting archeological adventures, Smith was gracious enough to give a guided tour of the exhibit where he could spend one-on-one time with attendees answering their questions.

Smith had this to say about the event, “I really enjoyed sharing my excitement for exploration on the sea and hope that everyone enjoyed the presentation.”

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