Pittsburgh buys hovercraft to help river rescues

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Pittsburgh has purchased a $93,000 hovercraft so police River Rescue crews will have more flexibility to respond to emergencies in icy or shallow water.

The city used a federal Homeland Security grant to cover 75 percent of the cost of the boat, which essentially floats on a cushion of air.

Ray DiMichiei said the hovercraft can go places other boats can't, such as when crews struggled to respond to a flash flood on Washington Boulevard in August 2011, where an elderly woman drowned when crews couldn't get to her submerged vehicle in regular boats.

Officer Sam Muoio, who pilots the hovercraft, told Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE that it's useful in icy waters, too. That's because a regular boat can push icy chunks together, possibly squeezing someone in the water, instead of floating on the surface.