Dakota James Foundation Aims To Make City Safer, Help Families Find Missing Loved Ones

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Back in March, the body of a missing Duquesne University grad student was found in the Ohio River; now that young man’s family has set up a foundation in his name in hopes of helping other families searching for missing loved ones.

Today would have been Dakota James’ 24th birthday.

“It is our goal to help the people of Pittsburgh and make sure no family has to go through the misfortune of sharing our experience, especially in a city that my son loved,” said Jeff James, Dakota’s father.

With that, Pam and Jeff James announced the establishment of the Dakota James Foundation in honor of their son.

Dakota went missing in late January. Six weeks later his body was found in the Ohio River.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office would rule the cause of his death as accidental drowning.

Dakota’s parents, who are from Frederick, Maryland, promised they would not leave Pittsburgh unless they could make it a safer place. They have spoken to both city and county officials to help accomplish that.

“Today, on Dakota’s 24th birthday, I am happy to announce that we are following up on that promise,” Jeff said.

One of the uncertainties in Dakota’s disappearance continues to be whether or not he crossed the Roberto Clemente Bridge on the night he went missing. That’s because there are no cameras on the span.

“The Roberto Clemente Bridge, you know, it’s literally a sidewalk sometimes, and there’s no camera on it, and that surprised us to find that out. So we’d like to change that,” Dakota’s father said.

There are two cameras on the Downtown side of the bridge.

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In addition to improving the surveillance system in Pittsburgh, the James family would like to do other things.

“Cutting Red tape between jurisdictions to improve cooperation and response times of local authorities and assisting the families of other missing persons,” Jeff said.

The Dakota James Foundation was created a week ago, and according to his family, $25,000 has already been donated.

If you would like to donate, click here. Or, visit their Facebook page here.

KDKA’s Brenda Waters spoke with Allegheny County officials say the James family had been in contact with them, but what they want to do is more a city issue. So, the county is not involved.

City officials have not responded for comment.

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