Black Hawk helicopters hover over Pittsburgh’s rivers for water rescue training

PITTSBURGH — Preparing for an emergency on Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers: it’s not an easy task, but it was an all-hands-on-deck effort Tuesday morning with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Black Hawk helicopters from the Pennsylvania Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team, known as PA-HART.

PHOTOS: Black Hawk helicopters participate in exercise over Pittsburgh

It was an action-packed morning at Point State Park as dozens of Pittsburghers stopped what they were doing to take in a sight like nothing else: Black Hawk helicopters, hovering above the water, all part of a mock water rescue.

“They’ve been working at this for weeks, if not months,” said Jake Weiland, park manager for Point State Park.

Channel 11 was there as multiple PA-HART choppers flew between Brunot Island and Downtown Pittsburgh, with rescuers repelling down from the choppers and into the rivers to “save” their trained victims.

“Along the rivers, specifically the Allegheny and the Ohio rivers, it’s a safe place to practice and certainly one that may come into play at some point,” Weiland said.

“It’s great to see them doing the preparation in case there really is an emergency,” said Joseph Duchene of the Strip District, who was there watching for hours. “It’s just amazing to see in person.”

Weiland described PA-HART as a disciplined team, committed to working with first responders from all over to state to help people in a time of desperate need, often evacuating people who are stranded.

“Natural disasters, flooding…situations that individuals wouldn’t be able to get out of themselves,” Weiland said.

“It makes me nervous just seeing them. I can’t imagine participating. But it really gives you a feeling of security, I think, knowing they’d be able to handle it,” Duchene said.

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