April 10, 2014

Divers in the water, Gervais Street bridge back open as search continues

Divers are entering the water of the Congaree River late Thursday afternoon as the search for the person who jumped off the Gervais Street bridge early Thursday morning continues, according to the Columbia Police Department.

“Earlier they were checking to see which way the water was rolling before sending divers in,” Capt. Robert McCullough, a spokesman for DNR, said. “But the divers are working now.”

The Gervais Street bridge reopened late Thursday after being closed for about five hours.

Authorities closed the bridge around 10 a.m. after receiving reports of someone jumping off the Gervais Street bridge into the water.

“Several witnesses heard a splash and saw a man struggling in the water just after 10 a.m. Thurday morning,” Jennifer Timmons, a Columbia Police Department spokeswoman, said. “No one saw someone jump.”

The Columbia Police Department, Columbia Fire Department, Lexington County Sheriff's Office, Cayce Police Department and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources were all on the scene.

Jon Person, a contractor from out of town, had the day off and came down to river the with some friends. “I didn’t see anything, but a friend who was with me said someone fell in the river,” Person said.

Person said they looked and they saw someone floating down the river, and the person looked to be alive at the time but hurt.

“We came down here to relax and enjoy the beautiful day until this happened,” Person said.

A Lexington County Sheriff’s Department helicopter and DNR plane were also flying overhead as part of the search.

Diverted traffic is clogging Huger Street and Blossom Street, especially Blossom, which is down to just one lane heading out of town.

The University of South Carolina Police and the Columbia Fire Department monitored the river while three rescue boats were in the water near the Gervais Street bridge. The search is complicated due to the dark color of the water.

Check back with The State for more information as it becomes available.

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