A report of a man who jumped off the Tunney Bridge Tuesday found nothing after three hours of searching the shallow area of Barnegat Bay.
Toms River Police Department and fire companies conducted an early morning search effort looking for a male who reportedly jumped from the Tunney Bridge at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning.
"The witness, a 44 year old Island Heights man, observed the man jump from the bridge then yelled to him 'stay afloat …help is on the way'" said Police Chief Michael Mastronardy. "He reported he used his flash light to observe the suspect who was wearing a red baseball hat floating away then he drifted out of view."
Sergeant James Reilly coordinated the three hour search with East Dover Fire Company that was assisted by Fire Boats from Ocean Beach, Silverton, East Dover and Island Heights Fire Company as well as New Jersey State Police. The United States Coast Guard responded with a boat and helicopter. Toms River Officers Brian Jarka and Dan Herr quickly activated the Toms River Police Boat and assisted in the search.
One lane of the Tunney Bridge was closed during the search.
Original post: A three-hour water search for a man who reportedly jumped from the Route 37 bridge in Toms River continues with the efforts of state police and Coast Guard this morning.
A witness pulled over on the Tunney Bridge as he saw a man jump from the north side of the Route 37 span and disappear into the water, officials said.
The 5 a.m. report launched a response from helicopters, Coast Guard, police and fire boats, who continued to search three hours after a call to police.
"We have a 5 a.m. report of a male jumping of the Tunney Bridge," said Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy. "We will continue to periodically search the area. We have nothing."
Toms River Fire District 1 Chief John Lightbody said the rescue search brought multiple rescue boats to the north side of the bridge about 5:11 a.m.
"We are initially there for rescue and after an hour or two it becomes a recovery," Lightbody said. East Dover, Silverton, Ocean Beach and Island Heights fire departments' boats and Toms River Police Boat commenced the search.
The police chief said a witness immediately pulled over as a man in a red baseball cap was seen on the north side of the bridge, as he jumped into the water below. "The witness says they saw the man jump into the water and then disappeared," said Mastronardy.
Lightbody said the man was seen mid-span on the Route 37 westbound bridge, which has a pedestrian walkway.
With heavy rains beginning about an hour after the search, weather impacted the search, Lightbody said.
"Primarily rain was a contriburing factor," Lightbody said, adding that local fire companies assist for the initial response. Units left about an hour later as state police and Coast Guard arrived to continue the search.
East Dover and Silverton fire boats were the first to assist the police department search of Barnegat Bay, Lightbody said. As the two fire boats began initial search patterns north and east of the bridge, additional fire boats from Ocean Beach and Island Heights arrived along with Toms River Police Boat. The New Jersey state police and U.S. Coast Guard added two more boats to the search and at around 6 a.m. helicopters were deployed, Lightbody said. A mobile unit from Toms River Office of Emergency Management also arrived.
"This came together pretty quick," Lightbody said. From East Dover Fire Company, Richard Tutella coordinated efforts with Lightbody. Police coordination was overseen by Sgt. James Reilly, Mastronardy said.
Both Mastronardy and Lightbody said the area is shallow.
"This is just east of the channel," Mastronardy said. "For one, it's very shallow there."
Lightbody said he recalls several reports of jumpers from the bridges there over his years in fire service.
"One I distinctly remember was a female who had jumped and survived, and they found her walking in the shallow water," Lightbody said.
Mastronardy said the search so far has turned up nothing.
"We will continue to periodically search the area," he said.