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Allegheny

Drone deployed to help locate body seen in Ohio River

Tony LaRussa
| Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, 9:33 a.m.
High waters have delayed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in setting out safety buoys at its fixed crest dams.
Tribune-Review
High waters have delayed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in setting out safety buoys at its fixed crest dams.

A drone launched over the Ohio River near the Dashields Dam in the hours after a body was spotted floating in the water was able to get close enough to see a distinctive tattoo that will be helpful when identifying the victim, police said.

But authorities have not yet been able to locate the body since it went over the dam on Monday.

Authorities believe the body is a woman and has been in the water a considerable amount of time.

“There's a massive debris field in the middle of the river about 75 to 100 yards past the dam,” Moon police Chief Leo McCarthy said Thursday. “The body may have been snagged by the debris and pulled under, or it may have broken free and floated down stream.”

The churning backwash and debris near the dam is so rough that logs are spit out of the river several feet into the air, McCarthy said.

Police in Beaver County, which begins just past the area where the dam is located, have been notified to be on the lookout for the body, the chief said.

A tow boat crew saw the body floating down river from the Sewickley Bridge toward the dam on Monday but could not catch up to it before it went over.

A river rescue team that was dispatched was unable to enter the water because of the debris and high river conditions caused by recent heavy rains.

Allegheny County detectives who were called to the scene shortly after the body was first discovered deployed a drone, which spotted the victim floating face down in the river, McCarthy said.

“The drone was able to photograph a distinctive, multi-colored tattoo with specific wording on the left shoulder of the body,” the chief said. “The photo was sent out to all neighboring police departments. When officers in Pittsburgh saw the photo, it meant something to them.”

Once the body is recovered it will be sent to the Allegheny County medical examiner's office for positive identification.

The victim's identity will not be released to the public until after family members have been notified, McCarthy said.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368 or tlarussa@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.

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