Families of four killed in Highland Park flash flood sue city, others
By Bobby Kerlik
Published: Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 10:56 a.m.
Christopher Griffith paused on Friday and looked at pictures of his wife and two daughters who drowned 17 months ago in a flash flood in Highland Park.
“My family's been devastated,” said Griffith, whose wife Kimberly Griffith, 46, and two daughters, Brenna, 12, and Mikaela, 8, died Aug. 19, 2011, on Washington Boulevard when a wall of water submerged their Chrysler Town and Country SUV. “I miss them terribly every day.”
Mary Saflin, 72, of Oakmont also died in the flood as the water swept her away from her car. Crews found her body the next day along the Allegheny River.
Christopher Griffith, 52, of Plum and Saflin's son, Nicholas Saflin, 47, of Bellevue, filed an eight-count, 40-page lawsuit in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court claiming that government officials knew the area was prone to dangerous flooding for the past 60 years but failed to take action. The lawsuit names the city, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, Allegheny County, the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, Moon-based Chester Engineers, PennDOT and the state. Chrysler is named because the plaintiffs' say the Griffiths were unable to escape from the vehicle because the electric windows could not operate underwater and the water pressure prevented them from opening the doors. Christopher Griffith also has a 19-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son.
Michael Palese, a spokesman for Chrysler, said the company hadn't been served with papers.
“The 2006 Chrysler Town and Country meets or exceeds all applicable safety standards and has an excellent safety record,” Palese said.
Representatives for the county, Chester, Alcosan and PennDOT declined to comment. Calls to the PWSA were not returned.
Griffith said he didn't hear anything or receive support from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office after the flood.
Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Ravenstahl, said the administration worked with PennDOT to install a flood gate system on Washington Boulevard, trained 2,000 public safety employees on how best to respond to swift-water situations and bought additional equipment to respond to floods. She said the mayor directed PWSA to hire an outside firm to identify stormwater management solutions in all flood-prone city areas.
“My heart aches for the victims of the Washington Boulevard tragedy and their families. While I can only imagine the pain these families continue to go through, I understand their frustration,” Ravenstahl said in a prepared statement. “I want to ensure them and the public that we've taken action to make sure a terrible tragedy like this never happens again.”
Alan Perer, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, called the flood gates and warning system “stop-gap measures.”
“It should never have happened,” Perer said. “If any of these people had done anything for more than 60 years, they could have prevented this.”
The lawsuit claims that government officials have ignored the “man-made drowning pool” for more than 60 years, citing a newspaper article from June 10, 1951, that details a flash flood on Washington Boulevard where one woman drowned and a dozen others were injured. The lawsuit also cited multiple other newspaper stories detailing flooding on the street during the past several decades.
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins’ Orpik taken off ice on stretcher in loss to Bruins
- Steelers still have something worth playing for
- Rossi: Penguins’ Orpik among select NHLers going without gluten
- Breaking down the Pirates’ needs entering winter meetings
- Ex-Pirates great Parker’s long wait for Hall of Fame could finally end
- Investors put squeeze on prospective homeowners’ American dreams
- Kovacevic: On Melancon, Mandela, molding
- Robinson: Video review reveals Steelers coach’s sideline movements in Baltimore were out of character
- Controversial Rooney Rule has opened door for NFL minority coaching candidates
- Gorman: Will Aliquippa’s Pitt pipeline end with Henry?
- Rampant misuse of antibiotics poses growing global threat, experts warn