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Woman dies after jumping from bridge

by Tom Chillemi

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The Robert O. Norris Jr. Memorial Bridge spans the Rappahannock River, connecting the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.

A Midlothian woman apparently committed suicide by jumping from the Robert O. Norris Bridge into the Rappahannock River at Topping on Monday.

Lancaster County Sheriff Ronnie Crockett identified the victim as Jody G. Bowker, 50, of Midlothian.

According to Sheriff Crockett, a motorist called the sheriff’s office at about 6:55 p.m. and reported that a woman had stopped her vehicle on the bridge and jumped off. 

Alan Blake, chief of the Hartfield Volunteer Fire Department, said he was on the bridge with police shortly after the jump and saw the woman treading water in the river below. Blake said the woman was able to tread water for about 5 minutes.

The woman’s vehicle was located on the bridge south of the center span, the highest part, Blake said.

Blake said two Hartfield volunteer firefighters, Marshall Davis and Charles Miller, who live on Locklies Creek, called him and offered to put Miller’s boat in the water and search for the woman.

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After being pulled from the water, the woman was taken to a private dock on the Middlesex side of the river, where rescue squad personnel attempted to resuscitate her at about 7:30 p.m.

Locklies Creek is just east of where the victim was treading water near the middle of the river, said Blake.

Miller put his 20-foot center-console boat in the water at his house and he and Davis rushed to the scene in a rescue attempt.

Blake said he used his cell phone to direct Miller and Davis to the woman, who had drifted with the falling tide about 100 yards down river to the east. It was cloudy and daylight was fading, which limited visibility from the water.

The woman had no pulse when Miller and Davis got her into the boat, said Blake. They took her to a private dock on the Middlesex side of the river, where rescue squad personnel attempted to resuscitate her until about 7:30 p.m.

Deputies from both Lancaster and Middlesex counties responded. A boat from the Virginia Marine Police also searched for the victim.

The victim’s family was contacted, and her vehicle was stored locally for routine processing as part of the investigation, which is being handled by the Lancaster Sheriff’s Office because the Norris Bridge is under its jurisdiction.

At this time, all indications are the death was a suicide, said Crockett. A final autopsy report will be available in 6 to 8 weeks.

Crockett said the Lancaster Sheriff’s Office will continue to investigate the death.

posted 04.15.2009

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