Survival Stories Emerge From Tragic Flash Flood

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — In the middle of the chaos on Washington Boulevard, there were stories of survival.

Paramedics in boats went to vehicles, plucking people out of nine to 10 feet of water.

“Next thing I know the water is up to the middle of my door,” Marion Marty, of Sarver, said. “You started to see – even a red dump truck floating. I mean, I never saw anything like it before in my life!”

Wrapped in a blanket and soaking wet, Marty shared her story. When the water was about to swallow her car, 911 told her to get on the roof.

“The water was rushing so fast, it kind of just dragged me right out,” she explained. “I hung on to a red truck and then my daughter got taken because it just totally submerged.”

Marty’s daughter managed to help an elderly woman swim to the roof of Amy Lavrich’s van – a vehicle Lavrich had just abandoned.

“Water started coming in my doors and that’s when I knew I was in trouble,” she said. “And 911 said, ‘Well, try to swim for it.’ By the time I got out of the car, it was well over my head.”

Paramedics rescued people clinging to trees, poles and car roofs.

“I had to stand up on the roof, you know, climb out the window,” Bob Bailey, of Homewood, said. “Then they came and got me in the boat.”

Tara Howes, of Gibsonia, believes she may have been next to the people who died in the minivan.

“There’s a guy yelling that there are people in the car and he was trying to help them with – I don’t know if he had pliers or something,” she said. “He was trying to break the window, but he said he couldn’t before the water got too high, so then he climbed into a tree.”

Howes believes that vehicle vanished under the water. An elderly woman remains unaccounted for.

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Comments

One Comment

  1. Bob says:

    This is absolutely sickening on so many levels. I feel badly for the family and outraged by what transpired. How many times has this area had problems? Did three or four people have to die for changes to be made?
    How could this happen less than a mile from a police station and a fire training facility? I know flash floods happen quickly, but where was everyone?
    In addition, at some point during the storm yesterday, KDKA was quoting someone about the need to “stay in your cars.” What idiot would make such a comment? Stay in your car and rely on someone to come to your aid? That’s outrageous.
    This is just all an incredible shame.

    1. Thankful says:

      on june 17th 2009 Officer David Sisak saved the life of a woman stuck in the same area when it flooded. I wanted to thank him he is a hero no matter what was said about the Jordan Miles incident

      1. zone 5 says:

        3599 wont be forgotten anytime soon !

      2. Bob says:

        The PG reports that three officers and a man from Emergency Services were in rowboats, rescuing those who were stuck on top of their cars or in the water. God bless them. The three who died could not get out of their van, it would appear and the woman found today was swept away by powerful currents.
        Yes, some things can’t be prevented and the officers who were there should be commended.
        After such a history, steps should have been taken by PennDot to see that it never happened again.

    2. Abby says:

      Hey Bob,

      My fiancee was one of the Pittsburgh Police Officers who didn’t think twice yesterday about immediately going into chest deep water risking his life to rescue people out of their cars. I know first hand because I washed his river water soaked uniform! So before you type things like “where was everybody” maybe you should get your facts right. While I agree that telling people to stay in their cars during a flash flood is rediculous, I do not agree with people like you that feel the need to say police weren’t there as soon as they could be to aid people because that’s not accurate at all.

      1. Karen S. says:

        I don’t think that anyone is faulting the actions of any first responders. Truly, in a situation like this, they risked their lives and well-being. I do think it is worth evaluating whether the dispatch procedure could be better. Certainly no one is suggesting that folks were sitting around playing poker while this tragedy unfolded but if they weren’t in this historically flood-prone area maybe the resources were not distributed correctly.

  2. Hal says:

    Where was Chopper 2 ?

  3. lisa says:

    Blame, blame blame. That’s what people love to do when tragedy strikes, judging from the comments above. Things happen that we humans have no control over. It is very sad, but why the need to lash out and try to pin blame on someone? Nobody saw this coming. I’ve driven through rain on this road just as hard, and I am really shocked.

    1. jdog says:

      Your apologistic attitude is moronic. Three or four people died. So nice that you seem so concerned.

    2. Karen S. says:

      I agree that this was an act of nature, but there are human improvements that can be made and perhaps should have been made, based on past flooding issues that have historically affected this road. Should we say, “Oh well, too bad, let’s just hope that no one dies next time”? or should we try and figure out exactly what could have — should have — been done to promote better drainage, implement road closures based on anticipated rainfall, or increase rescuer readiness in the event of severe storms?

    3. sadcityresident says:

      This is Pittsburgh, instead of dealing with the real problems we just blame other people….you must be from out of town !

  4. Lynn C says:

    Washington Blvd has had this flooding issue for years! I worked at the VA hospital for years and this happened alot, during Hurricane Ivan about 5 years ago ,I too floated down that same stretch of road and still remember how terrified I was! My heart goes out to that poor family who lost their loved ones. So so sad!!!

  5. Bob says:

    It’s not that I love to place blame. By your own comment, there are things we can and can’t control. The rain and flood could not be controlled. Road conditions–again, this has been a problem for many years and a tragedy just waiting to happen–and response time–again, this took places minutes from police and fire stations–can be controlled and enhanced.
    I’m just deeply saddened for this family. My God. Where was everybody?

  6. AC911 says:

    Allegheny County 911 answered over 1500 calls in 3 hours time. Where were all the responders? Going to alarms and other details that already came up…being diverted to lightning strikes. When people started calling 911 about Washington Blvd over 4 city fire trucks were sent to assist, along with volunteer fire stations and city medics and other ems agencies that have specialized training. I can say that I spoke with 4-5 people saying that their vehicles were caught in the flooding down on Washington Blvd and I was telling people to get on the roof…had to talk 1 lady through on how to break out a window cause she couldn’t get out. Hopefully she made it but it is very sad on what happened on Washington Blvd and something does need to be done.

    1. Bob says:

      You and your colleagues deserve thanks and praise.

    2. marilyn says:

      I agree. Everyone involved with helping someone escape from this tragic event I say thank you. It is just a shame that people had to die before the City started to look at the problem. The Mayor is worried about the parking meter issues. I suggest he look around and see the issues that need taken care of. He didn’t take action in the winter time and now he was late taking action with this problem. My prayers are with the families.

  7. Arby Tron says:

    They should have stuck Marty Griffin down there with his mouth open, he could have swallowed up the water in minutes

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