“I was a little bit amazed because who jumps into a river and can’t swim. I mean, I couldn’t understand that.,” Said David Burton, witness after the incident.
WILMINGTON (DE) BY GEORGE SHEA, PHOTOJOURNALIST: A search was underway Monday afternoon after a man reportedly jumped into the Christina River at the Tubman Garret Riverfront Park in Wilmington.
The incident unfolded around 2:30 p.m. Monday October 12, 2021, as scores of first responders including numerous rescue boats and dive teams as far away as Rehoboth Beach arrived at the scene.
City officials say Wilmington Fire Department was dispatched for a reported subject in the water in the area of the Walnut Street Bridge and Rosa Parks Drive.
When fire officials arrived at the scene, they spoke to a person who told them that they witnessed a male subject enter the water and did not see him emerge. It was then that additional units from New Castle County Dive and Water Rescue units was requested.
Delaware Newsline caught up to a witness at the scene. It’s not known if this is the same witness fire officials are referring to but according to the witness, the man jumped into the river following an altercation with a woman at the park.
“It was another young lady out here. Short Caucasian woman. I was told I’m not sure I was told that she was with him., Said David Burton, who was at the park having lunch when the incident unfolded. “And when altercation started she ran down here and when the police officer got here, she showed him where the guy was when she last seen him before he went under.”
Burton said he was having his lunch when he heard the splash but didn’t think anything of it as he hears it all the time while having lunch.
“I was sitting on the bench having lunch. I heard a splash in the background, but you always hit a current normally. Normally when I’m sitting here, I think it’s hitting the wall Burton explains.
Burton continued, “A few minutes later Wilmington bike police rode up. He (Policeman) talked to a woman and she told him about the guy that jumped off the bridge. The cops wanted to see where he went in, she said he was in this area floating (Pointing towards the S. Walnut St draw Bridge) when she seen him. Burton said, “it didn’t look like he was swimming anymore. Next thing you know, everybody out here.”
“The police (cars) showed up. At first they walked up and down the line, couldn’t find him couldn’t see the remains. Then you see his body in the water. And they call the rescue team out.”
Burton continued, “They came up with the boat couldn’t get up under the bridge. So they had to lift the bridge. They’ve been going back and forth up and down the water since then.”
When Delaware Newsline arrived at the scene, the South Market Street Bridge was raised and a blue pick up truck sat in between the gate and the lifted bridge with it’s four way flashers on. It’s unknown at this time if the truck had any involvement in the incident.
As the draw bridge remained in the up position for more than 30 minutes, a traffic nightmare was unfolding and began causing a gridlock to those seeking to get out of the city. Police were seen directing traffic towards the waterfront area away from the draw bridge and park.
A reporter asked Burton to confirm that the man was not pulled out of the water or got out on his own, Burton said, “No, he has definitely not been pulled out of the water. Because I was on lunch and I decided to stay and wait because I want to see whether he made it or not.”
“Yeah, well, I seen his jacket when the woman brought it to my attention. And it didn’t look like he was moving. I was a little bit amazed because who jumps into a river and can’t swim. I mean, I couldn’t understand that.”
Wilmington Police confirm that the incident involved a person in the water. “Our response and presence was prompted by a 9-1-1 call in reference to a possible person in the water.,” Said Dave Karas, a Wilmington Police spokesman.
“During the two-hour search, dive units found no signs of the individual and no signs from sonar or thermal imaging from fire boats and unmanned aerial systems.,” Said Mathew Marsella, a Wilmington Fire Department spokesman. “Command terminated the search and placed the situation under control labeling the search as unfounded.
More than 40 first responders assisted in the search from numerous agencies including Wilmington Fire Department, Wilmington Police, St. Francis EMS, New Castle County Paramedics, DNREC Fish & Wildlife Police, Delaware State Police, County Dive Team, and rescue boats from Minquas of Newport Fire Company, Goodwill Fire Company, Holloway Terrace Fire Company, Townsend Fire Company, and Port Penn Fire Company.
George Shea is a Delaware Newsline Digital Broadcast Journalist and has an emphasis on crime and social justice. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @denewsline. Like and follow Delaware Newsline on Facebook to get the latest stories.