Federal land access for rescue groups could become easier
By Victoria Spilabotte. CREATED Jun 6, 2013
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- For months the all-volunteer team at Red Rock Search and Rescue never gave up hope they would one day find the remains of Las Vegas cab driver, Keith Goldberg.
"We'll look under every rock, we'll look under every bush," the team's leader David Cummings said. "We'll look for signs, bones or clothing, or anything that might have belonged to that individual."
Cummings and his team eventually narrowed their search for Goldberg to an area in Lake Mead, but couldn't cut through government red tape that required the team to get a permit and expensive liability insurance to search federal land.
"I don't think I need to explain how gut-wrenching it was to know that all that stood between my family and peace of mind was a $1 million insurance policy that Red Rock couldn't afford because they're a non profit organization," Goldberg's sister Jodi Goldberg said as she testified in Washington.
Goldberg spoke on behalf of a new bill called the "Good Samaritan Search and Rescue Recovery Act" introduced by Congressman Joe Heck, R-Nevada. The bill would give groups like Red Rock fast access to federal land for searches.
"They provide a valuable community service and they needed access into the national park to make their search," Heck said as he testified alongside Goldberg.
Red Rock Search & Rescue waited months for an affordable insurance police only to find Keith Goldberg's remains last February within two hours of gaining access to Lake Mead.
"If we hadn't waited we probably would have solved the Goldberg case in 30 days," Cummings said. "Good Samaritans need to be used because we live in a time when people can't afford teams like us."
Red Rock steps in when government search and rescue teams can no longer put the man-power towards sustaining a search. Cummings provides service free of charge for families who request his team's rescue and recovery efforts.
Heck's bill would require that permits for accessing public land be issued within 48 hours of application and groups won't be responsible for obtaining an insurance policy as long as they waive federal liability.
The bill goes up for a vote by the National Resources Committee in Washington before it goes to a vote on the house floor.