Boatman: A boring job someone has to do under Kittanning bridge
As workers dangle from safety harnesses high up along the edge of the Kittanning Citizens Bridge, a lone boatman watches from below — ready to offer help should one of them fall into the icy waters of the Allegheny River.
Charles “Chukka” Goldinger, 77, of West Kittanning hunkers down with binoculars, his cellphone and a portable radio in his 16-foot fishing boat to keep an eye on the workers who are painting and repairing the bridge in a project scheduled to continue through October.
“I'm the troll under the bridge,” he said from his spot downriver from the John P. Murtha amphitheater on the nearby banks of the river.
Goldinger, who is a retired coal miner, is the West Kittanning fire chief. He started his watch on Monday and will be at the ready during work hours for the duration of the project.
He was hired for the boatman position by Advanced Painting Systems, Pittsburgh — the company contracted by PennDOT to do the bridge work. Every weekday at about 7:30 a.m. he puts the boat in the river and has to stay alert until about 4:30 p.m. when he goes ashore.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations mandate that someone be in the water at the bridge project to help with rescue should the need arise. His job is to get to the fallen worker in the icy waters before hypothermia sets in.
“I have about two-and-a-half minutes to get to them,” Goldinger said.
A life ring, life jacket and about 100 feet of rope are the tools he has stowed on board to assist him. So far, they have remained stowed, and he admits that for the most part, the job he has is pretty boring.
He keeps tabs on changing river conditions by checking in periodically with fire chiefs in East Franklin and Washington townships who are monitoring the moving ice floes.
“It's not safe out here for everyday boating,” he said. “When the river's high and ice is coming down, it's not safe.”
This is Goldinger's second time working as a boatman — his first was two years ago during the Judge Graff Bridge rehabilitation project on the span that carries Route 422 over the Allegheny River in North Buffalo and Manor townships.
When a boatman was needed for the Citizens Bridge project, Kittanning Borough Streets Supervisor Jim Mechling knew who to call: “Chukka.”
“Chukka has his own boat, and if I need him to do something, he's always there,” Mechling said.
And after a lifetime of boating in the area, Goldinger knows his way around the river. But he said a houseboat is his usual mode of transport on the Allegheny.
While he's on his boatman's watch, Goldinger will be sticking with the fishing boat until the weather warms up.
When that finally happens, he plans to work his shift on his pontoon boat — which will give him an opportunity to walk around and stretch his legs while on the river.
But until then, Goldinger lies low in his boat, keeping out of the wind and staying warm while bundled up in layers of clothing.
“I'm just sitting in my boat watching icebergs go by,” he said.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Kittanning Foodland announces it will close
- Kittanning man withdraws plea after judge rejects sentence recommendation
- Traffic from unofficial bridge detour worries Boyd Road residents in Manor
- 7 generations of Jackson family have operated Kiski Township farm
- Support group in Ford City offers help to depressed
- Erie woman charged second time in a week in Armstrong
- East Franklin soldier gets first award founded by actor Sinise
- Annual Light Up Night gets green light in Ford City
- Kittanning man charged with selling heroin in Ford City
- Armstrong tax records moving online
- Bethel man kills himself in front of state police