Man jumps from suspension bridge

WHEELING – A 54-year-old Wheeling man sustained minor injuries and was transported to a local hospital after he jumped from the Wheeling Suspension Bridge on Tuesday in what police termed an apparent suicide attempt.

Witnesses and emergency responders said the man, whose name was not released, was not being pursued by law enforcement or anyone else when he jumped from the bridge around 8:50 a.m.

“Several witnesses on the bridge say they saw him stop, climb up on the rail and then jump head-first over the rail,” said police Lt. Phil Redford.

One witness, who had his house boat docked at Heritage Port, said the man had walked about halfway across the bridge when he stopped and jumped from the south side. The bridge deck is about 60 feet above the surface of the Ohio River.

After the man crashed into the river below, the first witness called to Donald Hickman, who was fishing nearby in a small boat. Hickman floated over to the man, who was flailing his arms as he bobbed in the water, and offered him his hand.

“At first he wouldn’t take (Hickman’s) hand,” the first witness recalled, “but then he grabbed it and he guided him over to where everyone was waiting.”

Wheeling Fire Department medical staff and police officers stood at the edge of the wooden dock and pulled the man from the water at 8:59 a.m. He was loaded onto a stretcher and transported by ambulance to Ohio Valley Medical Center.

“He had multiple abrasions over his body,” Redford said. “When you jump from that high, it’s like hitting concrete.”

Redford, who commands the local first responder dive team, and Cpl. William Noice responded in one of the police department’s boats, but the man already had been pulled from the water by the time they arrived.

Deputy Police Chief Martin Kimball said the man’s possible commitment to Northwood Health Systems is no longer a police matter. Kimball, a 32-year veteran of the department, said he did not recall police dealing with the man in the past.