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Family mourns Dormont brothers who drowned

| Thursday, July 17, 2008

A friend tried to coax Stephen Pitcher out of jumping off an Allegheny National Forest bridge into the reservoir 75 feet below but, like many before him, decided to take the leap anyway.

"They could tell he was injured when he hit the water," his father, John Pitcher, 52, of Dormont said Wednesday. "He was a kid. He made a wrong decision. ... He went too far on this one."

The decision cost two lives.

Vincent Pitcher ran into the Warren County reservoir from a nearby shoreline at about 1:10 p.m. Tuesday and swam to save his younger brother. Both men, ages 19 and 21, disappeared under the water as Vincent tried to pull his brother to shore, state police said.

Though John Pitcher and others used sonar to scour the murky water, the two bodies were found by divers seven hours later. Warren County Coroner Jerry Borden ruled the deaths asphyxiation by drowning.

Kids and teens frequently jump off the James Morrison Bridge on Route 59 in Mead to plunge into the reservoir, which is about 100 feet deep near the span, Borden said. The drop is the equivalent of jumping from the Birmingham Bridge into the Monongahela River.

"This is nothing new, as far as jumping off. It's how you land," Borden said.

Stephen Pitcher landed sideways and likely was knocked unconscious before drowning, Borden said. No toxicology tests or autopsies are planned.

Relatives recalled Stephen and Vincent Pitcher's friendliness and love of fishing, a pastime they nurtured on their family's annual trip to woods near the New York border. The brothers grew up in Dormont.

Vincent Pitcher was particularly excited to take the trip this summer because he caught his first muskie last year, John Pitcher said.

"He was the best fisherman in the family, that boy. He loved it, man, he loved it," his father said. "I wanted to give him what he wanted."

Vincent Pitcher was a Pittsburgh Technical Institute student who graduated at the top of his class and recently started working in computer drafting for the electrical circuits firm Areva, his father said. He graduated from Keystone Oaks High School in 2005.

"It's always tragic, when young people lose their life," said Scott Hagy, principal at Keystone Oaks High School. "My thoughts went out to the dad, for losing two sons."

Stephen Pitcher, "Stevie" to some, was an aspiring percussionist who drummed in local garage bands, his father said. He was working toward his GED.

A neighbor who would come home from work at 3 or 4 a.m. said he'd often see the Pitchers hanging out or skateboarding in front of their tree-shaded house, which sits on a dead-end street in Dormont.

"I knew they were well-liked (and) they were always outside with their friends," said Kevin Salmen, 32, general manager of the nightclub Diesel in South Side. "It's devastating. It's absolutely devastating."

"It's just pretty unbelievable to me," said John Pitcher, 26, of Munhall, the oldest of the four sons.

State police are investigating the incident. The U.S. Forest Service, whose law enforcement arm assisted police, could not be reached for comment.

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