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Chester officers prevent Chester Bridge suicide

  • Emergency services personnel search below the Chester Bridge on Horse Island for a man reported to have either fallen or jumped off the bridge last Saturday. The unnamed man was safely taken into custody and is receiving help, according to Perry County (Missouri) Sheriff Gary Schaaf.

    Emergency services personnel search below the Chester Bridge on Horse Island for a man reported to have either fallen or jumped off the bridge last Saturday. The unnamed man was safely taken into custody and is receiving help, according to Perry County (Missouri) Sheriff Gary Schaaf.
    Pete Spitler/Herald Tribune

 
 
Posted on 12/6/2017, 1:00 AM

Two Chester police officers are being credited for their part in talking a Missouri man out of jumping off the Chester Bridge last Saturday.

Officers Seth Buch and Joe Crain were able to convince the man to leave his perch underneath the bridge deck on top of the last pier on the Missouri side. He was taken by MedStar Ambulance to Perry County Memorial Hospital for evaluation.

"We haven't gotten that far yet," Chester Police Chief Ryan Coffey said Monday, when asked if the officers could be up for a commendation for their efforts. "It's a tricky situation to bring attention to."

Perry County (Missouri) Sheriff Gary Schaaf confirmed the man's intent was suicide.

"There was a suicidal subject on the bridge," Schaaf wrote in an emailed response to a Herald Tribune inquiry seeking comment. "He was not able to go through with it and was taken into custody. He is receiving help."

The man's name has not been released, nor would the Herald Tribune report it if it was.

"I don't generally release any more than I have to if the person is having mental issues," Schaaf said. "I do want to thank all emergency services from Chester for their assistance."

According to Chester Fire Chief Marty Bert, the Chester Fire Department was called out around 3:18 p.m. in response to the report of a person who had either fallen off or jumped off the Missouri side of the bridge, as reported by a female motorist who was passing by.

"We pulled over on scene, started hollering on both sides of the bridge," said Chester Fire Chief Marty Bert. "We couldn't locate him, we moved under the bridge and deployed our rescue boat to go downriver in case he jumped."

"I had the firemen start on the Illinois side and walk both sides of the bridge," Bert continued. "On the last pier (on the Missouri side), there was a ladder and they went underneath and checked and they found him underneath (the bridge)."

The search for the man was also aided by the personal drone of CFD Lt. Charlie Bargman II, which he used to scan the Mississippi River in case the man jumped.

"The drone's a lot safer, we don't have to put people in danger like we did crawling down underneath the bridge," Bert said. "We didn't have harnesses or anything for our own safety and we put life jackets on.

"If we can locate him with a drone, it is a lot easier and (Bargman) was trying to locate him in the water."

Members of the Randolph County Sheriff's Office, Chester Police Department and Perry County Sheriff's Office also aided in the search. The bridge was shut down for about 20 minutes while the incident was being addressed.

It was the second planned suicide on the bridge in seven months, both unsuccessful thanks to the quick response of area agencies. In May, a 54-year-old Makanda woman was rescued from the Mississippi River by Chester firefighters after she jumped off the bridge, which was closed at the time due to flooding.

The Lewis & Clark Chapter of the Illinois Sons of the American Revolution later presented Chester firefighters Josh Ruch, Lorin Mott, Jeff Hammel, Scott Stirnaman and Glenn Andrews with awards for their heroism in that rescue.

Coffey said his department receives about 10 calls each year about people threatening to jump off the bridge, the majority of which turn out to be false alarms.