Escaping the grip of police, man plunges from Heart of America Bridge into Missouri River

04/09/2014 7:51 PM

04/09/2014 7:51 PM

Several Kansas City police officers briefly held the arm of a man before he fell from the Heart of America Bridge on Wednesday afternoon.

He escaped their grip.

“He wriggled away and then fell into the river,” said Officer Darin Snapp, a Kansas City police spokesman.

Authorities responded just before 3 p.m. to the bridge’s northbound lanes.

“A guy was standing on the outside of the fence, as if he was preparing to jump,” Snapp said.

“When officers arrived, he went down and started hanging from the bottom of one of the pillars. Officers ran over, thinking he already had jumped. He was still hanging there.”

Officers grabbed his arm, Snapp said.

“They actually had a hold of him for a second,” Snapp said.

But he fell into the Missouri River.

“He surfaced a couple of times, but then he went under and was not seen,” Snapp said.

Kansas City Fire Department crews launched rescue boats and stationed spotters on other bridges downriver. By late afternoon, Missouri Highway Patrol troopers had joined firefighters on the search, said Battalion Chief James Garrett.

But they did not find him, Garrett said.

He was wearing a purple Kansas State University hooded sweatshirt, authorities said.

Julie Keller of the Northland, who had come to Berkley Riverfront Park to get some exercise, said she saw a pair of legs protruding from the water’s surface as she approached the riverbank.

“I saw just a glimpse,” Keller said. “I only saw a pair of kicking feet a couple of times.”

Though she kept watching, that was all she saw.

“You want to do something, but you could tell that it was too late,” Keller said.

Michael Scott, a truck driver from Kansas City, Kan., kept scanning the water’s surface with the pair of binoculars he keeps in his truck.

“They will want to check on the west side of the bridge too,” Scott said. “Sometimes this river goes in both directions.”

Rescuers abandoned the search about 4:20 p.m.