Search continues for alleged jumpers

NEWELL – The investigation continues into a report that two people jumped from the Newell Bridge on Sunday, with a second person having reported hearing screams and a splash coming from the bridge area at the same time.

East Liverpool resident Brittany Riddle had reported Sunday she was driving across the toll bridge toward Newell when she saw a man and woman on the walkway to her right.

Traffic stopped for the light ahead and she glanced down then looked up in time to see the couple kiss, climb onto the rail of the bridge and then jump, Riddle had reported.

No one else, including the toll takers stationed in a booth at the Ohio end of the bridge or others stopped in traffic, reported seeing the pair jump, according to Hancock County Sheriff Ralph A. Fletcher on Tuesday.

The toll taker was interviewed and said he “saw and heard nothing,” Fletcher said.

However, a man approached firefighters who searched the waters both Sunday night and Monday morning, asking what was going on. When firefighters advised him people had possibly jumped from the bridge, the man commented, “That makes sense,” Fletcher said.

“He said he had heard a woman scream and a splash, which somewhat corroborates what (Riddle) reported,” Fletcher said.

He was asked if there is any chance Riddle could have been mistaken or perhaps playing a prank and said his officers judge a person’s demeanor while taking a statement for someone “telling a story.”

“Can we be fooled? Certainly,” Fletcher said, indicating that does not seem to be the case, again saying the second person’s account would seem to corroborate Riddle’s report.

He said, “Some people do survive these things,” but conceded it would be unlikely both victims would survive in such a situation.

Thus far, the possible victims have not been identified, with Fletcher saying no one has reported anyone missing, adding there has been speculation the man and woman came from out of town.

They were described as a middle-aged, heavy-set white man with a gray beard, wearing jeans, a black sleeveless T-shirt and bandanna and a thin white woman with bleached blonde hair and visible tattoos, wearing jeans and a black cut-off T-shirt.

There are no immediate plans to launch any additional search boats, with investigators now waiting to see if additional information arises and whether victims are found.

“The river will give up what it takes,” Fletcher said.