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.”