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Man jumps off bridge



Scott Hunter

The bridge across the Columbia River in front of Grand Coulee Dam. A semi crossing on the right gives perspective as to size and height from the river.

A Nespelem man jumped off the Columbia River Bridge in Coulee Dam Friday morning, reportedly because he thought he could make it.

The 28-year-old jumped from the bridge around 7 a.m. Another person was trying to keep him from doing it, said Coulee Dam Chief of Police Pat Collins.

Soon, three boats were in the river searching for Jamie Williams, but by 9:30, it was more likely a recovery effort than a rescue, since the man had been in the river for hours, Collins said.

The jump was not a suicide attempt.

"He thought he could make it," Collins said.

Williams and a friend had been drinking all night, the young man told Collins as he first arrived on the scene at the bridge.

The man, identified only as Clinton in Collins' report, said Williams wanted to jump from the bridge. Clinton told him not to, that it was too far down and he might not make it.

Williams insisted it wasn't that far, and if he didn't make it, "Oh well, I guess I'll see my dad then," Collins wrote in his report.

Williams' father died a few months ago, and Williams was still taking it hard, his friend said.

When Williams climbed over the railing, Clinton grabbed him and begged him not to jump, but Williams told him it wasn't that far and, "I can do this." His friend lost the struggle, and Williams jumped.

Before long, residents on Coulee Dam's River Drive, on the east side of the river, reported seeing someone in the water downriver and yelling for help.

Collins and other police, as well as firefighters, searched from shore. Fire Chief Flint Bjorson spotted Williams on the west side of the river.

Collins drove downstream on the west side, but as he arrived near the water pumps there, USBR emergency personnel spotted Williams already a half mile downstream.

Friday morning near the river, Collins said a Bureau of Reclamation boat, and boats from the Colville Tribal Natural Resources Department were involved in the search for Williams, plus a MedStar helicopter had joined in overhead until they were called away. And one local search and rescue diver was reportedly searching in his personal boat.

The river was running fast Friday morning, and appeared to be about 140 feet below the bridge.

After three hours of searching, Collins released the fire units. Two boats were continuing the search after four hours.

The Star has not received a report that Jamie Williams has yet been found.

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