3 rescues in 1 day on Kiski River sets record for Leechburg fire company | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

3 rescues in 1 day on Kiski River sets record for Leechburg fire company

Mary Ann Thomas
1418735_web1_VND-RiverRescue3-090118
Tribune-Review file photo
Submerged trees are a common danger to boaters on area rivers when water runs high and fast.
1418735_web1_vnd-kiksirescuefolo-071719
Courtesy of Gary Lyon
Three people had to be rescued on the Kiski River on Saturday, July 13, 2019, when their inflatable unicorn became snagged on submerged trees.

Still in his wet clothes, Gary Lyon left his home Saturday afternoon after rescuing three people and a dog on the Kiski River for another rescue involving three more people, this time on an inflatable tube shaped like a unicorn.

Three adults boarded the 12-foot unicorn in Vandergrift, planning to end their ride at the Leechburg boat ramp, but they couldn’t control their tube to get off the river and got hung up in submerged trees in one of the spots where kayakers were pinned just hours earlier, according to Lyon.

“It wasn’t even a boat,” Lyon said of the large tube, amazed it made its way safely for several miles on the swollen river.

The series of three rescues in one day set an all-time record for the Leechburg Volunteer Fire Department No. 150 water rescue and dive team, according to its captain, Joe Clark.

With much lower water levels Tuesday night, the firefighters and rescue team members planned to retrieve the kayaks and unicorn tube. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, which is reporting on the incidents, requested that Clark and company try to remove the boats from the river.

“The river was crazy on Saturday,” said Clark.

The Kiski was running fast and high Friday into Saturday, taking some by surprise as two upstream reservoirs released water after getting socked by storms.

The rescues came almost as fast as the river current.

First were two of three kayakers who got stuck going after a dog that jumped out of one of the kayaks. Then, a third kayaker was rescued a little farther downriver.

Then, after the fire company put their equipment and boat back, the unicorn call came.

“All were stuck for the same reason,” Clark said. “They all said they didn’t realize how fast the water was.”

All were pinned by partially submerged trees and debris, unable to paddle out because of the strong current. Two of the kayaks were stuck in the portion of river behind the bocce ball courts of the Marconi Club in Leechburg while the third kayak and, later, the duck were stuck behind the Lower Kiski Ambulance building in Leechburg.

Although the water was treacherous, the company had everything under control, and there were no major injuries, although Lyon got bruised up a little.

The rescue boat, an aluminum flat boat with a shallow draft, did get stuck on rocks for one of the rescues, but Gilpin volunteer firefighters threw out a rope and pulled them in, according to Clark.

Looking for a common thread for the multiple rescues, Lyon theorized: “It’s been a long summer. People haven’t been able to use the river. It was warm Saturday, and they decided to get on the river.”

The series of rescues began because one of the kayakers called 911. Besides using common sense not to be on the river when it is high, rescuers want to remind the public to call 911 for boating emergencies to alert the Leechburg fire company and others with water rescue teams.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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.