PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — After conducting an intense search of the Washington Boulevard area with cadaver dogs, authorities moved their search for a missing woman who was swept away in Friday’s flash flooding to the Allegheny River.
Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper called on KDKA’s NewsChopper 2 to join the search for the elderly woman who remained unaccounted for after the flooding. After 15 minutes of searching the shoreline of the Allegheny River, the victim was located.
“She was actually along the shoreline about two to 300 yards down from the dam,” said Chief Harper. “It’s a sad day. At least we have located her and it brings some closure to the family.”
The victim, identified as 72-year-old Mary Saflin from Oakmont, was one of a several drivers on Washington Boulevard who became trapped suddenly in up to 10 feet of water from a severe downpour.
A woman and her two children also died in the flood. They have been identified as 46-year-old Kimberly Griffith and her daughters, 12-year-old Brenna and 8-year-old Mikaela, all from Plum Boro.
Pittsburgh Emergency Management Deputy Director Ray DeMichiei says some parts of the city got up to three inches of rain in less than an hour.
“If you put that much water into a watershed like this, you just… you don’t build systems that big. That was just too much water in too small of a space over too short of a period of time,” said DeMichiei.
Time was not on Saflin’s side, DeMichiei says she spoke with her daughter just before she disappeared.
“She had called home and told her daughter she was in trouble around 4:10 [p.m.], water was coming in her car,” DeMichiei said.
River rescuers came from downtown to retrieve her body, officially ending a search that started Friday night.
“Our hearts are out to the family. They have our deepest condolences. This is a tragedy and there’s no rhyme or reason why this occurred,” added Chief Harper. “We can only pray to God [that] she’s in a better place.”
An official investigation will eventually determine what happened. It’s believed that she was swept away down an open storm sewer, which eventually empties into the river.
According to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Officer, Saflin suffered blunt force trauma to the head and trunk after being swept away.
This is the second time in a month that Washington Boulevard has been hit with severe flooding.
City officials plan to put their heads together with ALCOSAN, the Department of Environmental Protection, PennDOT and other agencies to figure out how to prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future.
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