May 14, 2010

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 18, 2010

Donald Spillane's family said that to them, his final act of goodwill was not surprising -- Mr. Spillane was willing to help those in need.

Mr. Spillane died Friday after he tried to save a young woman who had fallen from a cliff at McConnell's Mill State Park in Lawrence County. The 47-year-old electrical and mechanical assembler from Cranberry, fell about 35 feet as was trying to help Megan McCune, a 17-year-old from Slippery Rock. Miss McCune fell about 30 feet after she and a friend went off the trail to look at a waterfall.

Mr. Spillane and a group of friends were riding their motorcycles nearby when Miss McCune fell.

Mr. Spillane, his son-in-law Christopher Bach of Butler, and his brother-in-law, Joshua Rader of Harmony, stopped to help.

When Mr. Spillane tried to rescue Miss McCune, he slipped and fell to the base of the waterfall, close to her feet. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Germaine Benkart, Mr. Spillane's mother-in-law, said she wasn't surprised that he died trying to save someone's life.

"He would have helped anybody do anything," she said. "He would have never stood there while that girl was below and not done anything."

Mr. Spillane was born in Valley Stream, N.Y., in 1962. He moved to Cranberry when he was 10. He left Seneca Valley Senior High School a year early and later earned a GED diploma and an associate degree in electronics from Butler County Community College.

In 1983, he married Donna Benkart, whom he had met in high school. They had two daughters, Dana Rae Bach of Butler, 24, and Dawn Spillane of Cranberry, 26.

Mr. Spillane had worked making gas detection devices for Ametek, an electronics manufacturing company in O'Hara, as an electrical and mechanical assembler for the past six years. Prior to working for Ametek, he worked for Bacharach, a company that manufactures gas and liquid measurement devices.

"He was an upstanding person and a great co-worker," the company said in an e-mail. "[He] will be deeply missed."

Ms. Bach said she believed her father wanted to save Miss McCune because of a fatherly instinct -- the only way to see the fallen young woman, she said, was from the top of the waterfall.

"Having two girls, I think that that hit home with him, and he wanted to make sure she was OK," she said.

Her sister, Dawn, said her father enjoyed riding his Harley Davidson, following the Steelers and the Penguins and fishing with his family. She said he was protective of his daughters and helped them with softball and basketball.

"I wish that he didn't fall and he was still here, but he couldn't have gone a better way," Ms. Spillane said. "It's just who he was."

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