The D.C. police patrol boat that first reached a helicopter submerged in the Washington Channel with three people trapped inside early Friday did not carry diving gear because such equipment is rarely needed, a spokesman said yesterday.

Further, no Washington area jurisdiction continuously patrols the water with divers and scuba gear and neither does the U.S. Coast Guard, authorities said yesterday.

The D.C. police boat arrived within three minutes of the 7:30 a.m. helicopter crash. The three passengers were killed and the pilot, who managed to jump free of the helicopter, was injured.

It took 20 minutes after the patrol boat was first on the scene to free the first passenger because the boat had to return to its nearby base to pick up scuba diving gear.

In Montgomery County, about 10 volunteer divers are on call. The Prince George's County Emergency Services Team includes 12 trained divers who drive to the shore nearest to an accident, followed by a truck hauling the scuba gear.

The U.S. Coast Guard does not carry diving equipment on patrol boats; the Coast Guard station in Annapolis calls on Anne Arundel County divers when they are needed. The Maryland Natural Resources Police lost its diving team to budget cuts in the 1970s, but currently has 12 would-be divers in training.

National Airport added three divers to its rescue team after the Jan. 13, 1982, crash of Air Florida Flight 90 into the Potomac River, which killed 78 people. The airport divers reached Friday's helicopter crash site within 13 minutes of receiving a call for help at 7:35 a.m., an airport spokesman said, by which time the D.C. divers were in the water. The airport divers assisted in the attempted rescue.

D.C. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. has ordered a review of the department's procedures and will decide whether additional equipment should be stored on the harbor division's five patrol boats, Capt. William White III, a police spokesman, said yesterday. Scuba gear is not stored on D.C. police boats because it is "not ordinarily used in emergency rescue situations," White said.

Police divers and scuba devices are used primarily to recover bodies or submerged objects such as car wreckage, he said. Storage space is limited on the police boats, which range in length from 18 to 28 feet, White said.

The diving team freed the three passengers by 8:05 a.m., 35 minutes after the crash, White said. "Under the circumstances, they did an admirable job," he said.

However, some witnesses said the first diver did not enter the water until eight minutes later, at 8:13.

Police said the rescuers were hampered by heavy camera equipment on the aircraft, which made it difficult to free the passengers. The helicopter had been chartered by free-lance photographer William S. Weems, who was shooting pictures for a real estate brochure.

Weems, 44, of Washington, and the two other passengers, Robert A. Joy, 45, of Washington, and Victoria Hinckley, 24, of Alexandria, died of "submersion" and of injuries caused by the impact of the crash, the D.C. medical examiner's office said yesterday.

The pilot, Jack C. Turley, 37, of Baltimore, was reported in fair condition yesterday at George Washington University Medical Center, a spokeswoman said.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators continued to inspect the helicopter's Allison C20 turbine engine yesterday for problems, a spokesman said. Several witnesses reported hearing the engine stop seconds before the crash.

The D.C. police harbor division employs 11 certified divers out of a staff of 23. At least one diver is on duty at all times, White said.

Police officers serve as divers on a volunteer basis, as much as do those who ride motorcycles. After reviewing Friday's helicopter accident, Turner will decide "what, if any, revisions should be made to department policy," White said.

Some officials of other jurisdictions said they need divers only in special situations, which are too infrequent to justify constant patrols.

Divers "respond as needed," said Lt. Col. Harvey Cook, who is supervising the reformation of Natural Resource Police dive team. "You don't patrol around with {scuba gear} on."