By Mal Boright
Until now, a leap from the Bridge Street bridge in downtown Richmond was a way to quickly get into the cooling waters of the river below.
From now on, jumpers will find the hot waters of a court citation after their leaps off the creaky spanner.
Police Chief William “Joe” Miller has said over the past week that individuals caught trying to dive off the bridge will be charged and prosecuted with disorderly conduct under Vermont law.
According to Miller there are dangers for the jumpers and also passing motorists.
“The depth of the Winooski River in the area of the bridge is unpredictable, and it is unknown what hazardous items may be under the surface of the water,” Miller said recently.
“Those jumping off the bridge are also distracting motorists traveling in both directions and thus creating the potential for a motor vehicle accident on or before the bridge,” he said.
The chief also acknowledged possible danger to pedestrians and others on the bridge.
Miller said that there have been numerous complaints from citizens about the teenage bridge jumpers. Some complaints came by phone and at least one came in a more dramatic fashion.
“I was in a line of cars waiting to cross the bridge—it has been temporarily reduced to one lane—when a woman jumped out of a car waiting ahead of me and began waving her arms. I got out and she was pointing to a youngster on top of the bridge about to leap into the river,” the chief recalled.
Miller estimates that to be a 50- to 70-foot drop.
Starting last week, Richmond police were to start issuing the court citations to the jumpers after letting them off with warnings for the past few weeks.
“We are going to enforce it,” the chief said. “This is a potentially dangerous situation so I have an obligation to do something about it.”