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New Kensington teen drowns off Arnold shore

| Thursday, July 11, 2002

ARNOLD: A swimming outing in the Allegheny River turned tragic Wednesday evening when a 14-year-old New Kensington youth drowned.

The teen-ager was identified as Ben Carson of Ridge Avenue, according to the Allegheny County Coroner's office. He recently finished eighth-grade at Valley Middle School in Arnold.

Police said the drowning was an accident.

The boy was flown to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where he was pronounced dead. He had been in the water about 30 minutes before rescue crews located and pulled his body from the river.

The tragedy unfolded after Ben and another 14-year-old boy from Arnold jumped from the docks behind a vacant industrial glass house for a swim in the river

Six friends decided to stay on shore.

Somehow, one of the swimmers went under in a spot where the water is between seven and 12 feet deep, Arnold Police Sgt. Willie Weber said.

The friend pulled the victim above water, but lost him, Weber said.

Two other boys ran to the ambulance station along nearby Drey Street just after 7:30 p.m. to alert authorities.

Moments later, rescue boats began searching the river waters as a medical helicopter zoomed above, but it was too late.

Divers from Braeburn in Lower Burrell quickly spotted the body with a locator device, then pulled the victim out and tried to resuscitate him.

The death was the second drowning this year in the Valley.

This one happened at a popular but isolated swimming spot behind the Allegheny Valley Industrial Park - a place police try to keep youngsters away from.

Just hours before the incident, Arnold police chastised two children who were using makeshift rafts to float on a nearby stretch of the river.

Police likely will step up patrols to discourage river swimming, Weber said.

Not only are there shifting currents, but in some places there are concrete piles and cables underwater near the places where barges worked.

From Weber's interviews, he determined that the boy could swim.

"I talked to the diver who said the kid wasn't tangled in anything," Weber said. "He might have gotten fatigued or cramped up."

Weber said the river current wasn't unusually fast Wednesday.

Assisting with the recovery were New Kensington's river rescue boat, Braeburn Fire Company's boat with divers and Eureka's fire boat from Tarentum.

Drownings since 1997

Police say when going on the river, whether swimming or in a boat, everyone should wear a life jacket.

Not heeding this advice might have been a key factor in the 10 river drownings since 1997 in the Valley, including Wednesday's death of a 14-year-old New Kensington boy.

The other drownings:

  • In April, an 11-year-old Harrison boy drowned in the Kiski River in Allegheny Township while trying to save his cousin.

  • A 30-year-old woman from Kittanning Township drowned in the Allegheny River in August 2001 in Bethel. Authorities said she had been drinking.

  • A 16-year-old Lower Burrell boy slipped from a boat along the Allegheny and drowned a day before the start of school in August, 2000. Toxicology reports showed alcohol played a role.

  • A 33-year-old professional diver from Trenton, N.J., drowned in January 2000 while inspecting the Piney hydroelectric plant at a dam along the Allegheny in Washington Township, Armstrong County.

  • A 50-year-old Penn Hills man drowned after jumping from a boat in the Allegheny near Lock 3 at Plum in August 1999.

  • A 10-year-old Harrison boy drowned in the Allegheny near the Allegheny Ludlum plant in Brackenridge in August 1999.

  • A 46-year-old Tarentum man drowned in the Allegheny in Tarentum in August 1997.

  • A 54-year-old homeless man drowned in August 1997 in the Allegheny near the Springdale Marina.

  • A 14-year-old Harrison boy took a dip in the Allegheny at Harrison and drowned in June 1997.

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