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Gem of the Week: Rescue diver calls it a career after two decades

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GRAND FORKS, ND (WDAZ)—Tonight’s gem was usually hard to spot, as he spent most of his time serving a community where you couldn’t see him.

A man who risked his own life to save yours.

It’s one last walk through the garage—commonly known as Water World—for Howard Kossover, as he wraps up a unique career.

“It’s something people need. It’s not just finding people, it’s evidence searches, looking for items that are missing. It’s important and necessary,” said Kossover.

After 23 years with the Northeast Regional Water Operations Team, Kossover is retiring.

“Why 23 years? I guess I'm a slower learner than most,” said Kossover.

The man who already had a love of diving for fun joined the team shortly after it was formed back in the 90s.

“It's much different, but that's who they were targeting, because we already knew how to dive,” said Kossover.

Over the next two decades, Kossover would watch the team grow from just a handful of divers to a team of about 40.

“Both with equipment and personnel and bringing those years of experience and help teach a lot of people with the team,” said Northeast Regional Water Operations Team Commander, Sgt. Thomas Inocencio.

“We definitely did things then that would definitely not work now from a safety perspective,” said Kossover.

A team—primarily volunteers—willing to risk their lives on dangerous missions.

“Some of the aspects are terrible, the divers are in blind circumstances, you can’t see, you're cold, you're tied in, weighted down, but the service you are providing is very important,” said Kossover.

This full-time Social Security Administrator spent thousands of hours diving over the past two decades.  

“There was a great amount of satisfaction, especially when someone has been missing when the family comes up and they thank you and there is horror when a family begins to scream,” said Kossover.

The 66-year-old would not discuss any one call in particular—but did admit some calls were a lot tougher than others.

“Toughest part of the job would probably be anything that involved a missing child. That’s probably the toughest part,” said Kossover.

However, Kossover is not afraid to talk about his role in the historic flood of ’97—when his team would work against the raging Red River to save the city.

“I don’t know how many days on the water. The squad was involved in getting people out of their homes. We were rescuing pets at one point, saving city documents. It was a long, blurry time, very tiring.”

A tiring career, but very rewarding, says Kossover.

The diver’s experience will be hard to replace. Most people stay with the dive team for just five years.  

“I think with his experience, what he brought to the table was his familiarity of the areas we frequent with our search and rescues, primarily the river,” said Inocencio.

A man who dedicated his life to saving those in need.

“It was time to let other people take over. No regrets at all for doing it,” said Kossover.

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