Body found in Allegheny River identified as missing jet skier

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Lost for three days after he disappeared in the Allegheny River, the body of a Penn Hills man was found Wednesday morning.

Thomas D. Uzmack, 40, was operating his water scooter, giving a ride to a 12-year-old friend of the family. The two circled a pontoon as they performed doughnut maneuvers, South Buffalo Fire Chief Randy Brozenick said earlier this week, causing the water scooter to capsize. The boy was pulled to safety aboard the pontoon as the man bobbed in the water, having slipped out of his unfastened life vest. That was the last time Mr. Uzmack was seen before he went under.

Armstrong County Coroner Brian Myers said the body was sighted after 9 a.m. by Army Corps of Engineer workers aboard a boat near the Schenley Marina in Gilpin Township, about 2½ miles from where Mr. Uzmack was last seen. Freeport officials dispatched a rescue boat, eventually bringing the body to shore.

The autopsy was conducted in Pittsburgh on Wednesday afternoon, but a cause and manner of death have yet to be released.

“[The Allegheny River] is a great recreation,” Armstrong County Sheriff Bill Rupert said. “It‘‍s very unforgiving when this tragedy happens.”

Chief Brozenick said Mr. Uzmack‘‍s family was cooperative in providing all the necessary background information since he was reported missing Sunday afternoon.

“They just really want to get closure on this whole issue,” he said, “and we wanted to give it to them.”

Mr. Myers acknowledged the efforts of the dive and search crews in Armstrong County, which worked through three days of exhaustive searches. Throughout the week, poor underwater visibility and stormy conditions consistently hampered search efforts, Chief Brozenick said.

Prior to the discovery of Mr. Uzmack on Wednesday morning, a friend of his, Fred Lipa, described the Penn Hills man as talkative and outgoing. Mr. Uzmack had just purchased a new car, he said, but boats were his vehicle of choice.


Michael Majchrowicz: mmajchrowicz@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @mjmajchrowicz. First Published July 16, 2014 12:00 AM

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