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Police: Body found beneath Tarentum Bridge is jumper

| Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, 11:15 a.m.
ERIC FELACK | Trib Total Media
The family of Michael Swiklinski consoles one another as his body is unloaded from a boat after being recovered from the Allegheny River in Tarentum on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014.
Michael Swiklinski. jumped from the Tarentum Bridge on July 31, 2014
ERIC FELACK | Trib Total Media
A Murrysville diver jumps into the Allegheny River in Tarentum on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, during the recovery efforts to find Michael Swiklinski, who jumped from the Tarentum Bridge on Thursday.
ERIC FELACK | Trib Total Media
Rescue workers throw a line to a diver in the Allegheny River in Tarentum so he can tie off the body of suicide victim Michael Swiklinski after recovering his body on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014.
ERIC FELACK | Trib Total Media
Members of Armstrong County Water Rescue Task Force 340 search the Alleghey River in Tarentum on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 with Cindy Braden of Buffalo Township and her cadaver dog of Canine Emergency Search and Rescue while trying to locate the body of Michael Swiklinski who plunged off the Tarentum Bridge on Thursday evening.
ERIC FELACK | Trib Total Media
Divers from the Murrysville Special Operation Dive Team enter the Allegheny River on Friday, August 1, 2014 in search of the body of Michael Swiklinski, who jumped off the Tarentum Bridge on Thursday evening.
ERIC FELACK | Trib Total Media
A rescue boat from Lower Kiski Emergency Services takes a cadaver dog under the Tarentum Bridge on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, during the search for Michael Swiklinski, who jumped off the bridge on Thursday evening.
Eric Felack | Trib Total Media
A search crew from the Lower Kiski EMS enters the Allegheny River beneath at the Tarentum boat ramp on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, to search for Michael Swiklinski, who is believed to have drowned after jumping from the Tarentum Bridge on Thursday, July 31, 2014.

Searchers probing the Allegheny River on Friday afternoon found the body of Michael Swiklinski, a 43-year-old Freeport man who jumped from the Tarentum Bridge the evening before.

Swiklinski's family stood on the boat ramp, gathered arm in arm, waiting for the news they expected but didn't want to hear.

They had thanked rescue crews for their efforts throughout the day.

In the end, it was Swiklinski's daughter who spoke for the family.“He was a great guy and a great dad,” said Kaylah Moucheron, 23, of Harrison.

“I know he's in a better place now and not suffering.”

Divers located the body about 4:15 p.m. Tarentum police Sgt. Mark Glogowski confirmed Swiklinski's identity and said he had committed suicide.

Harrison police confirmed that Swiklinski had agreed on Thursday to talk with them about the fire that destroyed a mobile home and severely burned his ex-girlfriend, Tina Slomkoski, early Wednesday. Police said Swiklinski denied any involvement with the fire.

Slomkoski remains hospitalized in the burn unit of UPMC Mercy hospital in Pittsburgh. She sought a restraining order against Swiklinski after an incident on July 9 in which she had been thrown down, punched, spit on and bitten.

During the search, Tarentum's Eureka Fire and Rescue, Lower Kiski Emergency Medical Services and others used boat-mounted, side-searching sonar to methodically cover an area between the bridge's first and second piers.

The loop-like search was conducted near the area where eyewitnesses said they saw the man fall to the river.

Searchers were assisted by a specially trained dog handled by South Buffalo resident Pat Maloney.

At about 11:20 a.m., divers marked the spot with a large buoy.

Eureka fire Chief Rich Heuser said the channel is 30 feet deep or more in some places.

Previous searches revealed that the uneven bottom is strewn with a treacherous twist of trees, debris and cars. Pieces of steel rebar and sharp concrete chunks, dropped from the bridge, contributed to make it a diver's nightmare.

Divers worked in teams of three: a searcher, a diver to protect the searcher and a third diver as a “redundant but necessary back-up,'' Heuser said. “Safety first.”

The search continued through the afternoon with only a 20-minute break.

Divers and support crews from Lower Kiski, Lower Burrell, New Kensington, West Leechburg, Vandergrift and elsewhere worked side by side with the Murrysville special response dive team.

The river is known to have heavy silt and a muddy bottom, but divers said the bottom was relatively clear.

Strong currents slowed the search.

By 2:30 p.m., the dive teams were tiring but unwilling to stop.

More divers were summoned from Allegheny County's unit and the county's submersible camera, which was controlled from the boat.

At about 4:15 p.m., the new team of divers found the man's body.

It took two hours to plan the recovery and bring the body ashore.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com. The Trib's Emily Balser contributed to this report.

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