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By:  Star Beacon - Shelley Terry

ASHTABULA - - A city man was critically injured after he fell Friday morning from the Spring Street Bridge over the Ashtabula Gulf after an apparent suicide attempt, police said.

A 47-year-old Collins Boulevard resident suffered a broken right arm and leg, according to police and a paramedic with the Ashtabula Fire Department.

"He was talking and alert when we were with him," paramedic Matt Burgett said. "He also had a lot of contusions."

An ambulance took the man to Ashtabula County Medical Center, where he was transferred onto a helicopter and flown to a Cleveland hospital, Burgett said.

Ashtabula residents Dustin Pasqualone and Peggy Jones were walking along the Spring Street Bridge at about 10:30 a.m. when they saw the man go head-first over the north-side railing.

"It was shocking," Pasqualone said.

Within only a few minutes, two of the city fire department's paramedics climbed down a steep bank under the bridge, ran across the river, and over to the man who was atop the sand and brush. The paramedics administered intravenous fluids, splints and a cervical collar, with the help of firefighters on top of the bridge who lowered duffel bags filled with supplies with ropes.

Police directed traffic around the fire trucks and kept passersby moving along. People lined the Collins Boulevard area, trying to view the rescue. Police officers soon joined firefighters in the rescue down in the gulf.

In about 20 minutes, police and firefighters carried the 300-pound man out of the gulf and placed him in an awaiting ambulance.

After the rescue Ashtabula Police Capt. Gerald Cornelius praised the city fire department.

"They did an absolutely superb job," he said. "They were down there with the victim within minutes. Access to that area is so treacherous, so steep and it was so hot ... we had to ford the river. It made the rescue difficult. The firefighters risked their lives."

Cornelius believes the man survived the 87-foot fall because he landed in a "nest" of brush, tree limbs and sand.

"We really can't say why he went off that bridge," he said. "The matter is under investigation."

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