Rumors still persist it was not an accident when a ramp gave way under a Pittsburgh Fire Official who drowned in Allegheny River

I only got to meet Capt. Joe Somma head of fire Prevention for City of Pittsburgh  one time when I was doing an expansion of the fire alarm system at the Investment Building and he was the plan reviewer . A wise, knowledgeable and friendly   man  he would loose his life in a tragic accident when inspecting river barges  which had been outfitted with fireworks for the 1984 July 4th  fireworks show.,19433

Joe should have had on a life safety vest before he went aboard as required by USCG  Coast guard Regulations but he  did not and as he went up the ramp to the barge  it gave way when the barge moved  and he plunged into the river and drowned.  His body would be recovered the next day and transported in a solemn procession  to coroners office.

From all indications and reports it was nothing more than a tragic accident and lack of proper use of the boarding ramp  and poor judgement of Joe not to wear a life vest.,1029363

 His family sued  the fireworks makers and firm which owned the barge  I do not know if there was court case or they settled out of court .

Yet to this day rumors have been circulating by old timers  with in the fire alarm and fire service community it was no accident . That Joe was set up  supposedly because he discovered something which was going to be big news and embarrassing to some very powerful people regarding the then building Renaissance which was going on downtown. Rumors of  a safety cover up  and short cuts being taken which where never substantiated and  Rumors which need to be stopped Because it appears by all investigations including USCG   it was nothing more than an unfortunate accident due to improper safety steps not being taken .  Despite speculations why Joe did not put on a life vest being a non swimmer. Joe was a good man and does not need his name bantered about  and sullied in such a manner .Its time to put the rumors to bed.
Yes boats  and barges move all the time on the Allegheny when boats send waves across the river and cause a rocking motion.
and having been on and off plenty of docks, boats and barges I have seen more than my share of  poorly maintained set ups to board a boat. Plus some one should have told Joe to put on a vest but lets face it when some one with a badge comes to inspect things you do not give them any guff.
and there may have been no vests provided and little to no supervision of the barges  as well all things which may well have leed up to the accident Plus the fact fire dept  protocols regarding working around water  where not in effect. Several firefighters around the US have lost there lives  when it comes to working in and around water ways including one a few years ago near Erie Pa. because good judgement  was not followed  and lack of protocols If the people you are working with are not watching out for your safety it comes down to you relying on your own I see this time and time again. where fire depts operating at emergency's do things they should not be doing and not even realizing they are doing something wrong because they are so worried for others well being.  .  If you do not work along the river like I do on occasion and are not aware of the hazards you can very quickly become one of its victims.  I have 2 friends who worked the rivers as barge tenders  on river boats and both can tell you the dangers barges create even on a calm warm day. 

Like the river men say beware of snakes on the deck and thats exactly what they are talking about lines and tools laying out improper boarding planks etc. which can trip and kill you while walking on a deck or plank.

Another Urban legend The Wood Chopper of Milltown ( Penn Hills Pa. )

Thou there may have been a murder that this legend is based off there it apears to be a tottaly made up legend .

The story goes that a woodsman who lived in a cabin near the town of milltown  next to the Newfield Coal Mine in late 1800's
 became jealouly enraged when he caught his wife fooling around with another milltown man and that he burst into the cabin catching the cheating wife and man and went about killing them  bruttaly with an axe
and taking off  into the woods to never be found .

The legend goes  that to this day on an ocassional warm quiet summer night you can hear the woodsman  chopping away in the woods with his axe. near where the newfield mine once operated , when you stop along The road way and yell  "woodchopper chop wood " 3 times  this is just one of the many variations of the story I have heard.

The truth the wood chopper noise people would hear was an old Gully Whumper  Oil Well  pumping away along Indiana Road. which was run on ocassion in the summer time .

The wood chopper myth may have been started as a way to explain the noise the well made when operating as a way to scare the local kids  as it pumped away late into the night.

Lake Author Claims another victum some say the lake has Bad Karma.

I spent the summer of 1977 as a Assistant to Camp Staff Ranger and a Canoe Voyager at Camp Semiconon in Butler County Pa.
Once a week my self or the other Voyager John would take a group of  10-20 scouts on a 7 mile hike from camp Semiconon located along Conequenessing Creek to Moraine State Park and Lake Arthur in Prospect we would then get in the canoes which where waiting for us and canoe 2 miles across the lake and stay overnight in the area  of where an old town was located  where you could still find old foundations some jutting up out of the lake the yelow pin on google earth shows where we use to stay .

The entire time I was on these trips and years subsequent when my own troop went on " The Shoe & Canoe " Trips  as they where known I was always on guard and peaked as something did not seem right with the whole area . Especially after the scary experience we had with unknown intruders into the camp the first week of the 77 season.
The area is heavily wooded and Indian names and lore are rampant  as is tales of witch craft  and satanic worship thru out that rural section  of Butler County .Plus sevral cemetarys the snyder cemetary said to be haunted by a creature with red eyes

As well as the old stone house  Tavern nearby where many unsavory things happned  by Highwaymen and lore of buried treasure they left

Any truth to any of it who knows but a lot of strange deaths and disappearances have occurred all over Butler County and I often get the feeling I should not be some where so I get the hell out of there good advice regardless if a situation does not feel right leave the area .There maybe nothing to it but better to be safe than sorry.

Lake Author has seen many deaths over the years as well  from boaters who run into problems and people who go swimming and have drowned  and 3 recent cases in the same fall time period over several years 2012, 2014, and 2015   just add to the mystery and mystique of the area

Several middle age men  go fishing and hunting  etc. around the same time in the Fall  and  all found drowned in the lake

Is there some kind of conspiracy going on?

The answer is No.  While there are those who claim Indian spirits are at work who cause things to happen and pull people under the water like the tales of the river witch  . The truth is  as the weather changes from summer to fall so does the weather and the lake itself as the bottom becomes  more slippery from decaying foliage and winds get much stronger across the lakes surface as winter  storms move in. There are also many large sink holes in the lake due to fact it is man made as well as obstructions from old farm building foundations etc which where flooded over as weel as being part of a mine reclamation project   which lead to tripping hazards.etc when lake levels are low  and accidents will happen .

All 3 made the mistake of going to the lake and being by themselves near or in the water a very bad idea in fall as water temperatures plummet and one can die  due to exposure very quickly. Especially if one is not engaged in regular exercise  activity .
One of the leading causes of middle aged  hunters opening day deaths are heart attacks when they go into the field for a vigorous days activity and they normally are couch potatoes.

 Safety  Experts advise You should never Hike ,Hunt or Boat by yourself in the fall and winter time especially around water yet many do and have never had an issue but it only takes that few seconds of inattention or sudden medical issue arise and if no one is nearby you may well lose your life because no one knows you are in trouble.

While there are those who like to blame supernatural forces are at work at the lake  and often cite Chief Corn Planters curse on the white man  its seems all to often we are our own worse enemy.