PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For Vietnam veteran Bill McCormick, this past week has revived thoughts of another fatal boating accident in the dangerous stretch of the Ohio River, near the Dashields Lock and Dam.
It was back in June of 1983 when McCormick and some friends were fishing near the dam and they heard cries for help. A boat had been swept over the dam.
McCormick, of Moon Township, wasted no time in helping to rescue three of the boat’s four occupants. The body of the fourth person, a young man named Brad Patrick, was recovered a few days later in Beaver County.
McCormick told KDKA-TV’s Ralph Iannotti, “The mother was in the whirlpool. I grabbed her by the hair, she was unconscious. We went to the dam and I got the father and the girlfriend. They were in, kind of, shock.”
The Army Corps of Engineers said, on Friday, it would be installing seven more buoys and signs near the dam to warn boaters of the danger.
But McCormick doesn’t think buoys alone are enough to prevent future tragedies like the most recent one, involving a kayak that was swept over the dam last Saturday. One woman died and another woman is still missing.
McCormick says he believes the buoys aren’t enough.
“The answer is to put a retractable cable across the dam, so people can grab something in case they don’t see the buoys, it would stop people from going over the dam,” he said.
McCormick is still pained by what happened the day the boat went over the dam. He says he wishes to this day that he could have done more to save the young man, but the boat he was in was already in danger of sinking.
He said, “I told Brad I would be right back. I couldn’t get him in the boat, there wasn’t enough room. If he had come in the boat, we would have sank. The boat was in full reverse.”
Not long after the fatal boating mishap, McCormick got a letter from a relative of the Ohio family that was in the boat that fateful day so many years ago.
The relative wrote: “Mr. McCormick, I wish I could find the words that would express my thankfulness for your bravery saving the lives of my loved ones and my nephew’s girlfriend.”