Underwater cameras added to search for missing Connellsville man
Using underwater camera equipment from the Allegheny County Bomb Squad, a dive team from Murrysville was unable to locate a missing 21-year-old Connellsville man who is presumed to have drowned Tuesday.
After more than 10 hours searching Jacobs Creek in South Huntingdon, the Murrysville Medic One dive team was not able to locate Dylan Knopsnider, who was swimming with friends Tuesday near the Creek Falls section of the stream when he failed to surface.
The Greensburg Fire Department dive team and water rescue teams from several volunteer fire departments in Westmoreland, Fayette and Washington counties searched the creek over the past four days in an attempt to locate Knopsnider.
Water rescue teams also walked the area downstream from where Knopsnider went into the water to a section where the murky water was only about two feet deep, state police said.
Medic One divers arrived Friday morning and spent the day working with the Allegheny County Bomb Squad's roving underwater vehicle, or ROV, equipped with an underwater camera to clear a 150-to-200-foot section of the creek. Divers pulled out of the water around 7:30 Friday evening, according to Medic One Director Darrick Gerano.
“Our plan today was initially to run a cadaver dog, which got some very strong hits, indicating to us that the gentleman was still in there,” Gerano said.
The group's first attempt was sending the ROV down to search “a few of the dangerous spots,” Gerano said. “The problem was the current was so swift, they couldn't control the ROV.”
Gerano said the shoreline in the area has a number of undercuts, some of which go back 30 feet under the creek bank, with a clearance height of only 18 to 24 inches in some spots.
“We ended up sending a diver down with the ROV to hit some of those tight spots,” Gerano said. “We were able to clear both sides today, but there are just so many undercuts. Any place we could reach, we got to today.”
It is believed Knopsnider lost his footing and hit his head on a rock as he jumped into water about 10 to 15 feet deep downstream of the falls, police said. The creek was swollen by a storm earlier Tuesday, creating a fast current.
Trooper Adam Janosko said one of Knopsnider's friends told police he jumped in the water in an attempt to rescue Knopsider, but could not reach him.
The popular swimming hole is about two miles downstream of the Chaintown Road bridge. The creek separates Westmoreland and Fayette counties before emptying into the Youghiogheny River near the village of Jacobs Creek.
Kayla Grogan of Connellsville, a friend of the Knopsnider family, said everyone gathered along Chaintown Road on Friday appreciated the work the Murrysville Medic One crew did.
“They worked so hard all day,” Grogan said.
Grogan did not want to disclose search plans for Saturday, but said family and friends are planning to be back at the site around 8 a.m.
“But with the weather conditions and the heavy rains they're calling for, that could (help) things,” Gerano said.