Man survives jump from I-65 bridge, helped by off-duty deputy

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May 17—A Birmingham man was in stable condition Monday after he jumped Sunday afternoon from the Interstate 65 bridge at the Tennessee River and was pulled from the water by an off-duty deputy.

The 35-year-old man was taken to Huntsville Hospital and is expected to recover, according to Morgan County Sheriff's Office spokesman Mike Swafford.

One of those who assisted the man was Lt. Shane Pullam of the Morgan County Rescue Squad.

"I hope that young man understands the good Lord had everyone in the right place at the right time, and it wasn't time for him to go," Pullam said Monday. He said that if Rescue Squad members hadn't already been out on the water at the time, it would have taken more time to reach him.

Swafford said 911 calls came in from passersby on the interstate about a vehicle stopped there at around 12:42 p.m. Sunday. "The individual had called his sister and told her what he was planning to do," he said.

A U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officer who was nearby heard the dispatch and headed to the bridge, Swafford said, and found the man on the passenger side of the vehicle, tossing items from it. The officer tried to talk with the man to prevent him from jumping, but he moved away and jumped.

An off-duty Morgan County Sheriff's Office deputy, Cpl. Austin Wiggington, was nearby on the river with his girlfriend and witnessed the jump and they were able to pull the man onto his boat, Swafford said. Swafford said the man jumped at 12:51 p.m., and the deputy pulled him from the water at 12:54.

Wiggington was not available for comment.

Meanwhile, "the (Morgan County) Rescue Squad was out, responding to a boat taking on water," Swafford said.

While two Rescue Squad members were towing that boat, which had two occupants, Pullam was in a boat by himself headed back to a Rescue Squad facility when he heard the call about the man who had jumped. Pullam, who has been with the Rescue Squad for 18 years and been a reserve deputy for about 16 years, said he headed to the scene, advising 911 that Fire & Rescue and First Response were needed for medical care at Riverwalk Marina.

Pullam said he met Wiggington "about a half-mile west of the bridge and we transferred (the injured man) from his boat to our Rescue Squad boat. He was conscious and talking, but was in a good bit of pain."

According to Swafford, the bridge is 55.8 feet high and the water is about 28 feet deep. Swafford said the man had some broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder and contusions to his head.

From Morgan County 911, Fish & Wildlife, the off-duty deputy and teams from the Rescue Squad and First Response, 11 individuals responded initially in the rescue, Swafford said, and Decatur Fire & Rescue assisted once the man was on land. Rescue Squad Chief Lt. Danny Kelso said the Alabama Marine Police followed the Rescue Squad boat to the marina. or 256-340-2438. Twitter @DD_MAccardi.

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