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Woman drove onto railroad bridge from Pittsburgh side before fatal fall

| Friday, May 19, 2017, 5:57 p.m.
Emergency crews respond to SUV that went off bridge into Ohio River
Emergency crews respond to SUV that went off bridge into the Ohio River.

Pittsburgh police suspect a woman drove onto Norfolk Southern railroad tracks from the Pittsburgh side of the Ohio River before the SUV she was driving plunged 70 feet from a railroad bridge, killing her and injuring a dog and cat that were with her.

Police are attempting to pinpoint how and where the woman drove onto the railroad tracks, Pittsburgh Public Safety spokeswoman Emily Schaffer said.

“At this point, we don't know,” she said, adding that investigators are hoping to find surveillance cameras that might offer clues. “As of right now, we believe that she got on from that side based on what witnesses saw.”

The woman has been identified as Lisa Patterson, 44, of Bloomfield. Police reports indicate the cause of death was drowning.

Witnesses told police the car was crossing from the city side.

Witnesses reported seeing a blue Toyota Highlander falling from the bridge just after 2 p.m. The bridge spans the river and Brunot Island between the city's Marshall-Shadeland and Esplen neighborhoods.

Emergency personnel, including city divers, found the SUV in about 20 feet of water near the island. The woman was in the driver's seat. Schaffer said she was wearing a seat belt. Rescue crews had to break a window to remove her.

They were unable to recover the vehicle, she said.

Two pets — a cat and a terrier-mix — that police believe were in the vehicle, managed to swim from the wreckage. Rescuers pulled the seriously injured cat from the river and city paramedics administered first aid, Schaffer said.

Workers at a natural gas power plant on the island heard the dog barking and found it along the riverbank, according to Dan Rossi, CEO of Humane Animal Rescue, which has both animals.

Rossi said the cat suffered internal injuries and required surgery Friday. Its survival is uncertain, he said. The dog is expected to recover from an eye injury.

Rossi said the organization will search to find an owner or relative who can claim the animals. If unsuccessful, they will be offered for adoption.

“If we can't identify any owners of the animals we will probably give the workers at the power plant first shot at adoption,” he said.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, or @bobbauder.

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