Carol E. Long spent 60 years working on local rivers, 40 of them as a riverboat captain.
But, one day in January 1956, Mr. Long was also a witness to history -- the crash of a Mitchell B-25 bomber in the Monongahela River, east of the Glenwood bridge.
Mr. Long, who was skippering the Expeditor tugboat at the time, was close enough that he was able to help rescuers pull surviving crew members out of the icy river. Two others died.
In the years since, the B-25 crash has spawned conspiracy theories about its cargo and mission, largely because little of the plane was ever found. One theory had the plane, on a flight from Nevada when it ran out of gas, carrying top-secret weapons. Another speculated that Howard Hughes was on board.
Mr. Long's daughter, Cheryl Haberstock of Pleasant Hills, said her father saw some wreckage being carted away on barges. But he wouldn't elaborate on the particulars after he received threatening phone calls warning him not to talk about what he had seen.
"He wouldn't talk to anybody about it," she said. "He was too scared."
Mrs. Haberstock doesn't believe he was holding back some dark secret. Rather, she said, her father was a simple man who didn't want to become part of a controversy or conflict.
Mr. Long, a resident of South Park Township, died of congestive heart failure Friday at age 97.
A native of Gallipolis Ferry, W.Va., Mr. Long left home at age 10 to take a job as a cabin boy. As he grew older, he moved up to deckhand, then mate, then riverboat captain.
While her father's job would take him away for weeks at a time, traveling the Ohio River between Pittsburgh and New Orleans, Mrs. Haberstock said he was a devoted family man who didn't smoke or drink. When he was home, she said, the family had his full attention and he enjoyed treating the three children to homemade waffles, pancakes and ice cream.
He had a couple of close calls during his career, including twice falling overboard while trying to navigate an icy barge. But he remained in good health, having no major medical problems until undergoing open heart surgery at age 89.
Seven years later, for his 96th birthday, the family took him for a ride on the Gateway Clipper Fleet and he was able to visit the pilot house.
"He loved the river," she said.
Mr. Long is survived by his wife of 66 years, Eva; another daughter, Barbara Schoon of Whitehall; a son, William Long of Clairton; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow at Jefferson Memorial Funeral Home, 301 Curry Hollow Road, Pleasant Hills, where the funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Interment will be at Jefferson Memorial Park.
Steve Twedt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1963.