Little Bridge jump proves tragic

Visiting off-Island firefighters assist injured young man.

A young man who jumped from Little Bridge in Oak Bluffs Monday suffered serious injury and was airlifted off the Vineyard. — Rich Saltzberg

A young man who jumped from Little Bridge in Oak Bluffs Monday afternoon got hurt badly, and was airlifted off the Vineyard. Oak Bluffs Deputy Fire Chief Manuel Rose said it appears the young man thought he was jumping from the “Jaws Bridge,” which spans a deeper channel, as opposed to Little Bridge, which Deputy Chief Rose described as ”not a bridge anybody should jump off.” The young man, who appeared to have jumped head first, struck his head, and “suffered a pretty serious neck injury,” Rose said.

A woman who works at Island Spirit Kayak, a rental business close to the bridge, told The Times she saw the aftermath of the accident. Maddi, an Edgartown resident who declined to provide her last name, said her attention was drawn to the vicinity of the bridge when police cars and an ambulance rushed in. Maddi said she crossed the street and saw the young man lying on the armor stones on the left-hand side of the channel, surrounded by people. 

“He wasn’t moving,” she said.

She said EMS personnel put a spine board underneath him, and loaded him onto a stretcher and “left very quickly.”

Maddi said she spoke with a bystander, a parent she has seen at the bridge on other occasions, who told her she witnessed the young man jump headfirst with his hands at his ankles. The bystander, according to Maddi, said the young man came to the surface unable to swim, that he’d lost feeling in his legs but might have been able to speak and use his arms.

Maddi said prior to the accident, a large group of people were on the small beach near Little Bridge, and “at least 10 kids were jumping off the bridge.” After the accident, “they all stopped and left.”

A group of off-Island firefighters pulled the young man from the water after he struck his head, according to an Oak Bluffs Police report. The report states the young man suffered a seizure after striking his head, and that police officers assisted EMS personnel in loading the young man into an ambulance.

Maddi said nobody jumps from Little Bridge in June and September, but in July and August, especially with Big Bridge (“Jaws Bridge”) crowded with jumpers, people come to Little Bridge and jump. She said even at high tide, you can always touch bottom in the channel that runs under Little Bridge. Often, she said, parents will ask if Little Bridge is “Jaws Bridge,” and not realize that bridge is further up the beach.

Island Spirit Kayak owner Chick Stapleton agreed that Little Bridge is often confused with Big or “Jaws” Bridge. “We let them know that Big Bridge is 1.2 miles away,” she said.

Maddi also said many parents take one look at Little Bridge and in response to kids’ requests to jump off it, say, “Absolutely not.”

Both bridges span tidal inlets to Sengekontacket Pond. “Jaws Bridge” got its moniker because of a scene in the blockbuster “Jaws” where the shark swims from Cow Bay into Sengekontacket, attacks someone, and swims back out. Less famous Little Bridge tends to shoal underneath. The inlet is often dredged. 

 

Stapleton said Monday was windy enough that she canceled several rentals. She said she wondered if the wind had churned up the sand and sediment, and made the water turbid so the young man couldn’t see how shallow the channel was. She also said Monday was a full moon.

“The tides were at their highest and their lowest,” she said.

Police and EMS were dispatched at 3:08 pm, according to a police report. Oak Bluffs harbormaster Todd Alexander said low tides on Monday were roughly 5:30 am and 5:30 pm. 

Ever mindful of how shallow the Little Bridge inlet is, Rose said, “I was always afraid something like this would happen.”

21 COMMENTS

  1. Astonishing to me that the local authorities cast a blind eye to the jumping. Prayers for the young man. Hopefully. This tragedy will serve some notice.

    • Jumping beans, jumping signs. Did you mean “No Jumping” signs are at both bridges or that there are no signs there? I sincerely hope this young man will recover from such a terrible injury.

      • Jackie,

        “Did you mean ‘No Jumping’ signs are at both bridges or that there are no signs there?”

        Good point. Even though we may know what the poster means, others may not. This is a prime example where improper grammar can impede the communication. ✏️ 🗒 🔍

        :-^

  2. I know there is one at the Jaws Bridge that says No Jumping, I can’t recall if there is one at the Little Bridge.

  3. A sad indictment of the towns ”proactive“ safety policies. “We knew something would happen, we did nothing, something happened.“

    • Wesley, bridge jumping is a favorite past time, something fun to do and should be left up to each individual. Signs should be in place to protect the the towns liability but not policed. Depth markers could be installed for “boaters” and maybe a sign for “no stupid people allowed”. I also have jumped off every bridge on island except the new draw bridge. As an islander I have done this my whole life and will continue to do so, with caution, for as long as I am physically able. Leave this one alone people. As long as the towns are protected from law suits let it be.

      • “No Diving- Shallow Channel” signage would count as a simple solution. If people still jump and hurt themselves that’s beyond help.

      • You want a law and signage in place that is not enforced?
        That just generates disrespect for law.
        Do you want the police to also ignore speeding and stop signs?

        How about a sign that warns but does not prohibit?
        “Warning – Shallow Water”

  4. I have jumped off every bridge on this island, and yes, that includes the drawbridge, the old drawbridge. There were signs. I do not take pride in any of this, it is simply a fact. Jumping of the drawbridge was absurdly stupid but young male bravado being what it is…. I was driven. A few days ago I was floating under first bridge with my daughter, It is nice to enter at the pond side and allow oneself to float out to the ocean, the gradual gradual temperature change is pleasant. There were bridge jumpers who we called to and they stalled their jumping. All of the comments I see here say that more should be done to prevent people from jumping off the bridge, I disagree. First, it won’t work, second, it will limit fun, and lastly, it impinges on personal freedom. Perhaps more specific signage should be placed. Perhaps a depth marker could be painted? Warnings about depth, and admonishment against diving, and some way to gauge high and low tides… still this sort of thing will happen again someday. That’s why they call it an accident.

    • “I have jumped off every bridge on this island, and yes, that includes the drawbridge, the old drawbridge.”

      Confusion. So you have not jumped off the new drawbridge. I thought you said you had jumped off every bridge on this island!

      :-^

  5. Family Man: Its Big bridge or Little bridge. Saying First bridge is only if you are coming from OB. Just letting you know.

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