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Freak Accident in Pittsburgh

Discussion in 'Ideas and Stories' started by Boater Dan, May 24, 2004.

  1. Boater Dan

    Boater Dan Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Western PA
    Muddy Ohio River foils recovery of car, its occupants

    Monday, May 24, 2004
    By Steve Levin, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    While Pittsburgh police believe they know the identities of the two occupants of the Chevy Corsica that sped through the Corliss Tunnel late Saturday night and plunged into the Ohio River, strong currents yesterday prevented divers from locating the car.

    Members of the city's River Rescue unit searched yesterday morning for several hours along a 100-yard area downstream of where the car apparently entered the river. Using sonar and global positioning satellite devices, they noted several likely spots where the car might have floated with the current.

    It's likely that the car didn't sink immediately because air pockets would have given it some temporary buoyancy.

    "There were a couple of potential blips on the screen, but with the river like it is, it could be a tree sitting there," said a member of the unit, who declined to identify himself.

    The river's speed yesterday morning was estimated at more than 3 knots -- a little more than 3 mph -- with currents too fast and treacherous for divers. In addition, recent rains have muddied the river, making visibility zero.

    Yesterday afternoon, Pittsburgh police Lt. Kevin Kraus said he was "99 percent sure" that there were two people in the car. He said the man and the woman were identified by family members after local TV stations yesterday broadcast a front plate recovered from the site that read "Shonna & Mike."

    Kraus declined to release any further information about the victims.

    He said there were no skid or brake marks in the tunnel. He said the car exited the tunnel at a high rate of speed, smashed through the Jersey barrier, became airborne and knocked off a section of a rusted wrought-iron fence just beyond. Kraus said there were rubber tire marks and scrapes on the iron fence.

    The car still had enough speed and height to clear three separate sets of railroad tracks and an access road before hitting the bank of the river and going in, a distance Kraus estimated to be at least 65 feet.

    Stanley Day, who lives above Corliss Auto on West Carson Street, said he heard the crash about 11:15 p.m.

    "It was extremely loud," Day said. "There's people that hit that barrier before but not going that fast. Whoever was in that car had to be flying."

    Yesterday morning, chunks of concrete from the Jersey barrier were still scattered about, and the edge of the barrier was stained with oil. The wrought-iron fence hung at an angle.

    The Corliss Tunnel, less than one-tenth of a mile long, is at the end of a gradual descent of Corliss Street from Sheraden. Drivers must turn either left or right onto West Carson Street when exiting the tunnel.


    As of this evening, Pittsburgh River Rescue has not been able to put any divers in the water and is targeting Wednesday as the earliest due to brown water, fast currents, and heavy debris flow from the recent rains. Pittsburgh handles their own river rescue, but I thought others may be interested in this accident. I will post more after the recovery is made.

  2. Gary D.

    Gary D. ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Post Falls, Idaho
    We have had a simular thing happen several times over the years. I just hope they stay focused that it's a recovery and they have all the time in the world to do it safely.

    Gary D.
  3. Boater Dan

    Boater Dan Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Western PA
    Just an update. Divers from the Pittsburgh River Rescue unit were able to pull the vehicle from the river last Wednesday. They brought in a very large crane to lift the car from over 80 feet away on the roadway.

    The conditions were still very poor with continued high current, extremely muddy conditions. I will give their divers a lot of credit. I'm not certain it was a dive I would have made.

    Anyhow, the driver was on a learner's permit, the person in the car with him did not have a driver's license, they were seen at a party prior to this drinking, and a beer mug was reportedly found on the floor between his legs.
  4. diveh3

    diveh3 Nassau Grouper

    I have shared this post with my daughter who is a senior in high school.
    Just maybe out of this tragic accident she will realize the inherent dangers of reckless driving and restricted beverages.
    It seems that this time of year (graduation parties, schools out, summer life) we read alot of stories like this.

    She asked what drives a rescuer to descend into a muddy,cold,dangerous river to do a search & recovery on an obvious fatality?

    I, not being this type of diver could not answer her question.
    Any suggestions? other than it's a job.
  5. Boater Dan

    Boater Dan Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Western PA
    I can only speak for myself, but it is a desire to help others that lead me into this area. I have been a volunteer firefighter for 27 years and have participated in many aspects of the job. I started diving with our dive team about 22 years ago, but it fell apart. I started again about 3 years ago with a neighboring department. The entire aspect of the fire service just provides me with an avenue to give back to the community and to serve others.

    The training I received, the experience of being in breathing apparatus in smokey environments, the exposure to the realities of death and destruction, and the desire to help, make public safety diving just another spinoff of what we do.

    There are probably hundreds of others on this bulletin board who help people each day, this is just our contribution.

    I hope that you have managed to get through to your daughter. In Western Pennsylvania over the past 2 years, there have been way too many children and teenagers killed in auto accidents. Many related to alcohol.
  6. scubadiver214

    scubadiver214 Public Safety Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Pennsylvania
    Boater Dan,

    I'm familiar with the car plunging into the Ohio River in Pittsburgh. I live in Monroeville and dive with Mon Valley Divers out of Fayette City, PA. Nice to know there are other fellow Pennsylvania public safety divers active on ScubaBoard. I just joined a week or so ago and have been wondering if there were any other locals out there. Please advise if there is a forum for the guys from this area. I think it would be nice if we stay in touch and pass information about local events, news, advisories, and training opportunities. We all get the "pleasure" of diving in those "clear" and "clean" rivers. :wink: LOL


    Dave (Scubadiver214)

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