1 Dead as Jet Ski Falls Over Dam in Edgeworth
20 May 2012
By Taryn Luna
A woman was killed Sunday afternoon and a man was injured when
their jet ski went over the Dashields Dam in Edgeworth.
A Portersville family fishing near the dam arrived in time to save
the man's life. The woman, identified by the Allegheny County
Medical Examiner's Office as Melissa Mason, 24, of Aliquippa, was
pronounced dead at Sewickley Valley Hospital.
Tony Prelec, 54, said he was fishing in his boat on the Ohio River
with his son, his daughter and her boyfriend shortly before 4 p.m.
when they noticed a jet ski bouncing up and down in the water
close to the dam.
Mr. Prelec said he pulled up the anchor and headed toward the jet
ski to make sure no one was injured.
"Sure enough we went over and they were stuck in the undertow
right at the base of the dam, and the current was so strong that
they couldn't get away from the dam, it kept pulling them under,"
he said. "They were both coherent when we got to the dam because
she yelled 'Help us, I can't breathe!'"
When the Prelecs arrived the couple was holding onto the jet ski.
Both were wearing life vests, which had little effect in the
violent current that peeled their swimsuits off them.
Mr. Prelec said he kept the boat about 20 feet from the dam to
avoid getting pulled into the undertow as he and his family made a
throw line with a life preserver and tossed it out to the couple.
"We threw it out to the girl, who had broken loose from the
Ski-Doo, and she couldn't get it," he said. "We threw it to him
and he was able to grab it and we pulled him up to the boat."
Ms. Mason struggled in the water and disappeared for about a
"The last time she came up, she was face down and we knew she
wouldn't be able to grab on," he said.
The family used an aluminum boat hook to pull Ms. Mason's
unconscious body into the boat.
Mr. Prelec's daughter Melanie, a 21-year-old nurse in training at
Youngstown State University, and another nurse in a nearby boat
that witnessed the rescue conducted CPR on Ms. Mason until they
reached the Leetsdale dock, where ambulances took the pair to the
"She never regained consciousness," Mr. Prelec said. "She had
taken in too much water, even if it was in a short time."
Ms. Mason was pronounced dead at 4:41 p.m. The condition of the
man was unavailable Sunday night, but Mr. Prelec said he was
conscious and speaking after the accident.
"He just said 'I didn't realize I was that close,," Mr. Prelec
said. "He was pretty banged up himself. It's the worst place you
can be, at the base of the dam."
The 1,585-foot-wide fixed-crest concrete dam has a 10-foot drop.
The medical examiner is conducting an autopsy to determine Ms.
Mason's cause of death. Allegheny County police are investigating
Taryn Luna: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1985.