Soldier from JBLM jumps from Tacoma Narrows bridge

A 25-year-old soldier from Joint Base Lewis-McChord jumped off the eastbound Narrows bridge early this morning after talking briefly with a Washington State Patrol trooper who responded to a report of car stopped on the bridge.

Patrol spokeswoman Trooper Brandy Kessler said the trooper watched the man suddenly rush toward the railing and jump over. He saw the man face down in the water and then the man, who apparently survived the initial jump, started to swim away, she said.

“Then the trooper couldn’t see him anymore,” she said. The man’s name was not released.

The Tacoma Fire Department's fire boat searched the water south of the bridge where he was last seen without success. They turned the search over to the U.S. Coast Guard about 8 a.m. A Coast Guard helicopter and a 25-foot boat took up the search south of the bridge. It was suspended about 10:30 a.m., a Coast Guard spokesman said.

Kessler said they don’t know if the man, who was intoxicated, was trying to commit suicide. In his condition, she said the man might not have known where he was or even thought he could survive the jump.

A driver called the State Patrol to report a car blocking a bridge lane, she said. The trooper arrived and found the car parked illegally on the shoulder. The driver was sitting in the passenger seat which was the closest side of the car to the railing.

The trooper went around to the passenger door and found it locked. He then opened the driver’s door and asked the man to get out, which he did. Kessler said at some point the man handed the trooper his military identification card.

Realizing the man was very drunk, she said the trooper went to the front of the car and asked the man to come forward to take some field sobriety tests.

Instead the man bolted the 10 feet to the railing and jumped into the cold water 187 feet below, she said.

According to the man’s ID, he's active duty reserve soldier assigned to the base, she said. The car he was driving was a Hertz rental car, she added

“We don’t know what was going on in his mind,” Kessler said. “He didn’t appear to know where he was at.”