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Man dies after bridge jump

Rescuers unable to save apparent suicide victim in his 50s

Posted: Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A man in his 50s died Monday evening after he jumped off the Douglas Bridge in what police are calling a suicide.

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Police would not release the man's name by the Empire's press time Monday night because they had not yet notified relatives out of state, Juneau Police Officer Tom Bates said. He would only say the man was born in 1951.

"From all indications it was (a suicide)," Bates said. The man was wearing big boots and "wasn't dressed for swimming," according to the officer.

The man still had a pulse when he was pulled out of the water shortly after 7 p.m., said Lt. Susan Parrish, a U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman.

The first boat on the scene was the private vessel Wilderness Swift. Those aboard used a pole to pull the man alongside the boat before crew from a 25-foot Coast Guard rescue vessel pulled him out of the water, said Parrish and witnesses.

Crew members started cardiopulmonary resuscitation before turning him over to Capital City Fire and Rescue emergency medical technicians, Parrish said.

Witnesses said they were shaken up when they saw the man jump off the bridge and float toward the cruise ships with the current on the receding tide.

Richard George Sr., who was driving across the bridge, said he knew there was a problem when he first started watching the man and traffic backed up behind him.

"I saw him climb up on the railing, and he sat there," George said. "He was mumbling, slow, deliberate."

George said a bicyclist came over and grabbed the man's shirt.

"It was obvious they were talking," he said.

The man on the railing pushed the bicyclist's hand away before jumping, George said.

On the beach, Kristin Johnson said she and her husband, David Johnson had just gotten to the beach to fish when the man went into the water at the bridge. The Johnsons both said they were glad they didn't see him jump.

"I called 911," Kristin Johnson said. "It was so hard not to jump in the water after him."

David Johnson said he had some lifesaving training, but didn't want to create more problems for rescue crews. He knew that in the cold, swiftly moving water, they wouldn't have had much of a chance to get back to shore.

"We wouldn't have made it," he said.

They said they were happy to hear someone on the Wilderness Swift shout to them that the man still had a pulse, and they had hoped he would make it.

The last reported account of someone jumping off the Douglas Bridge was Aug. 12, 2005. A 17-year-old girl swam to shore and was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital for observation.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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