Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Central Catholic teacher dies while bicycling in North Park after encountering downed power lines

Man in polo shirt stands in front of a brick wall
Courtesy of Central Catholic High School
Central Catholic High School teacher Robert Anderson

At least one storm-related death has been reported in the Pittsburgh region after heavy wind and rain passed through the region Monday night, knocking down trees and power lines and leaving thousands of homes without power at mid-week.

Allegheny County Police said first-responders on Tuesday night discovered the body of a man who died in North Park after the bicycle he was riding struck live Duquesne Light power lines that fell during the storm onto a trail near Pearce Mill Road in the park.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office on Wednesday identified the man as Robert Anderson, 63, of Wexford, and ruled his death accidental due to electrocution.

Officials at Central Catholic High School identified Anderson as a physical education and health teacher for nearly 20 years at the school for boys in Oakland.

"Throughout his time at our school, Mr. Anderson played an important role in educating students on the need for personal health and wellness. Mr. Anderson was dedicated to the students entrusted to his care and the mission of Central Catholic," said school president Matthew J. Stoessel in a statement Wednesday.

"Everyone who knew him mourns his passing, as he was an integral member of our school’s community," Stoessel said. "I am certain that the Central Catholic community will join me in prayer as we collectively extend our deepest condolences to Mr. Anderson’s family and friends.

County police said the county emergency dispatch center received a report about fallen wires emitting smoke on the trail at 8:40 a.m. Tuesday. Police, other emergency workers and North Park maintenance staff were dispatched to the trail and notified Duquesne Light about the downed wires at 8:51 a.m. County police said officers and firefighters closed the trail then by placing caution tape near the area where the wires crossed the trail and at the main entrance of the trail at the park's Olympia Grove, county police said.

WESA Inbox Edition Newsletter

Start your morning with today's news on Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

Anderson's body was discovered at 8:22 p.m. and recovered at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday after Duquesne Light shut off power to the still-live wires, police said.

"We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident, and our hearts go out to his family during this difficult time," Duquesne Light spokeswoman Holly Geitner said in a statement, adding that the utility is "working closely with local emergency responders and park officials to investigate the incident."

Nearly 8,000 homes in Western Pennsylvania remained without electricity Wednesday afternoon — down from more than 48,000 customers who lacked power after the storm left damage and outages in a swath that extended from Beaver Falls in the northwest, south through Pittsburgh and Washington County, and southeast to McKeesport and Westmoreland County.

Most are customers of Duquesne Light, and some of them may not see power restored until Sunday, the utility said in a statement.

Duquesne Light said it is working with contractors and crews from American Electric Power in Ohio and West Virginia and expects to restore service to about 3,500 remaining customers without electricity by 1 p.m. Sunday — "although many customers [are] expected to be restored sooner."

"With the potential for more storms and heat-related issues this week, the estimated time of restoration could move into next week," the utility added. It cautioned affected customers to consider alternative living arrangements to stay cool during the ongoing heat forecast for the rest of the week.

Slightly more than 4,000 homes served by First Energy and its subsidiary, West Penn Power, also remained without electricity Wednesday, many in the northern and eastern suburbs of the metro area and Westmoreland County.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a high temperature of 93 degrees today for the Pittsburgh region, with an excessive heat warning in place until 8 p.m. Friday. The warning means that prolonged and dangerously hot conditions are likely, with the heat index — the 'feels-like" temperature when relative humidity is combined with the air — ranging from 105-110 degrees during the day.

"Little relief will be observed at night with temperatures ranging from 70 to 75 degrees," the weather service said.

Updated: June 19, 2024 at 4:55 PM EDT
Cindi Lash joined Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting in 2021 from Missouri Lawyers Media, a subsidiary of BridgeTower Media, where she began her tenure as editor and regional editor in 2018. Before joining BridgeTower, she served as editor-in-chief at Pittsburgh Magazine for four years, and as regional editor of local news startup She previously spent 20 years as a reporter and editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.