Narrows bridge jumper was New Mexico native, Iraq combat veteran

A former soldier who jumped from the eastbound Tacoma Narrows bridge last week and appeared to survive has been identified as Esteban Reza, a 25-year-old New Mexico native.

Trooper Guy Gill said a Washington State Patrol investigator talked to Reza’s mother and brother when they came to Tacoma after he disappeared Dec. 20. The family said they haven’t heard from him since Dec. 3.

Reza jumped from the bridge about 5 a.m. after parking his rental car on the span. A State Patrol trooper was questioning him when he jumped over the railing near the midspan and landed in the water 187 feet below.

The trooper saw Reza swimming in the cold water for about 20 minutes before he disappeared. A search of the water by boat and helicopter found nothing, Gill said.

Reza gave the trooper his military identification card before he jumped.

Why he did so isn’t clear, Gill said.

The trooper who talked with Reza said he was very drunk and maybe feared he would be arrested. Perhaps he didn’t know where he was when he jumped or thought he could survive the fall, the trooper said.

As for the possibility of suicide, his family told The News Tribune on Monday that they had no indication he was distraught.

Reza is a member of the New Mexico National Guard and a civilian weapons expert with the Army. He returned from Afghanistan Nov. 30 on emergency leave because his grandfather had died.

In a telephone interview from his home in Artesia, N.M., Enrique Reza said his son came home for the grandfather’s funeral in New Mexico.

Enrique Reza said he believes his son came to Tacoma to try to reconcile with his ex-wife. The two met a few years ago when Reza was assigned temporarily at then-Fort Lewis.

The couple’s divorce was granted Dec. 10, two days after a court hearing that Reza did not attend, his father said.

“He called her on Dec. 19,” said Enrique Reza, who talked with his son’s ex-wife after the incident. “They got into an argument.”

Enrique Reza said his son loved his wife, but their marriage couldn’t survive the military deployments and training that took him away from home.

Reza’s family is trying to find out more about what happened to him. They have hired a local attorney who is posting photos of Reza and checking into video records from gas stations in the area.