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Boy rescued from beneath Elizabeth Bridge

| Friday, July 18, 2014, 6:46 p.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
South Hills Area Council of Governments Technical Rescue Team personnel succeed in bringing 14-year-old Dom Sciarretti down from the Elizabeth Bridge after he became stuck for two hours on Friday afternoon.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
The rescue involved dropping a harness from the surface of the bridge to an 18-inch inspection area under the bridge but still 60 feet above the West Elizabeth shore of the Monongahela River.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
A 14-year-old Floreffe boy, identified by friends as Dom Sciarretti, is brought to safety after being stuck for more than two hours on the West Elizabeth side of the Elizabeth Bridge Friday afternoon. Officials said he was not seriously hurt.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
Onlookers, including friends of the youngster stuck on the Elizabeth Bridge, watch as rescue crews work to bring him off the bridge late Friday.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
SHACOG Technical Rescue Team Chief Todd Plunkett said the 14-year-old boy, identified by friends as Dom Sciarretti, was talking with his rescuers throughout their effort to bring him off the Elizabeth Bridge.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
Some emergency personnel watched from a boat in the Monongahela River, ready to provide assistance if necessary during Friday's rescue above them on the Elizabeth Bridge.

A 14-year-old boy from the Floreffe section of Jefferson Hills escaped serious injury when he became stuck underneath the Elizabeth Bridge on Friday afternoon.

The youth, identified by friends as Dom Sciarretti, was rescued after a two-hour ordeal on the West Elizabeth side of the bridge. Police said an unidentified firefighter suffered minor injuries during the effort.

“We were fishing and he just wanted to have fun climbing on the beam,” said Jake Zoller, 15, of Floreffe, who called 911 after his friend became stuck.

“He crawled in one of the girders and he got his one arm caught up there,” said a neighbor who declined to be identified. “I told him I'd climb up and bring him down (but emergency crews) said I couldn't.”

An unidentified neighbor who reportedly is a volunteer firefighter offered to do the same thing, but instead the South Hills Area Council of Governments Technical Rescue Team brought in two haul systems to bring the boy down.

“He was talking to the rescuers the whole time,” team Chief Todd Plunkett said. “He fell into what is called an inspection area, 18 inches wide and 60 feet high. He could not move up or down on his own.”

The SHACOG team represents 20 different agencies across the South Hills and holds regular drills.

First responders from that team managed to slip a harness on the 150-pound boy and eventually pulled him to safety.

“He had no lacerations, no head trauma and no major injuries,” Plunkett said.

The boy was taken to a nearby hospital as a precaution. No additional information was available at presstime.

The rescue forced closure of the span carrying Route 51 over the Monongahela River and forced backups during Friday's rush hour to and from the Clairton-Glassport Bridge downriver.

“Vehicles were shaking the bridge at one time,” Plunkett said.

Traffic could be seen lined up on Route 837 from the Clairton bridge all the way back to the interchange with Route 51 and the Elizabeth span.

“Vehicles were shaking the bridge at one time,” Plunkett said.

Authorities on the scene included Elizabeth's police Officer-in-Charge John Snelson, who is moving on to the code enforcement officer's post in Elizabeth Township.

His last shift as head of the police force patrolling Elizabeth and West Elizabeth was supposed to end about the time that the rescue began. He helped keep order as crews worked above him on the bridge.

Snelson said he was not sure if charges would be filed, but that would have to be discussed with other agencies.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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