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    Default Leap from bridge leads to dramatic rescue from river

    Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 01/24/07
    BY MICHELLE SAHN
    STAFF WRITER

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    SEA BRIGHT Adam Koppel of Atlantic Highlands was on his second date with a Rumson woman and wanted to impress her, police said.

    So as the couple walked across the Sea Bright-Rumson Bridge in the wee hours Saturday, the intoxicated 25-year-old man jumped off the span and into the frigid waters of the Shrewsbury River, some 20 to 30 feet below, police said.

    It took four police officers from Sea Bright, Rumson and Monmouth Beach; a bridge tender; two good Samaritans; a rope and a construction ladder to rescue Koppel, who was close to losing consciousness because of hypothermia when he was pulled from the water, police said.

    Koppel was taken to Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch by the Sea Bright First Aid Squad, police said. But a hospital spokesman said there was no record of him there.

    Officers faced poor visibility and a fast-moving current when they arrived around 1:10 a.m. Saturday, said Police Chief William S. Moore.

    Sea Bright Detective John Arias and Cpl. Brett Friedman initiated a search with flashlights, and because the current was so strong they were able to see the water was flowing north out of the tidal river, the chief said.

    The rescuers found him clinging to a bulkhead on the Sea Bright side, Moore said.

    While the depth of the water varies depending on the tide, it was over Koppel's head, the chief said. The water level was at least five or six feet below land, so when Koppel tried to swing his leg ashore to pull himself up, he could not reach, said Brian Hood, the bridge tender.

    Police tried to pull Koppel out with their hands, but they lost their grip on him, said Hood, who brought a life preserver and rope to the officers. The bulkhead was slippery, and there was nothing police could grab onto to facilitate a rescue.

    "It was pretty serious," said Hood, 34, of Neptune. "It looked like he was starting to lose his grip."

    Neighbors join rescue


    At some point, a police officer headed to the riverside home of Michael Chimento looking for help.

    Chimento, 26, of Sea Bright, who has been a certified lifeguard for about a decade, said he and his girlfriend, Amanda Reagan, 24, of Fair Haven, were in his den when an officer came to his window and said there was a man in the river.

    They tried to lower his empty boat elevators into the water, but the lifts were moving too slowly, said Chimento.

    So Reagan and Arias ran next door, where a house is under construction, grabbed a 10- to 15-foot-long construction ladder and carried it to the water's edge.

    Meanwhile, Rumson Patrolman Donald Scheider and Monmouth Beach Patrolman John Jones had arrived.

    Police used the rope and life preserver to pull Koppel about 30 to 40 yards through the water toward an area where there was more light and where they could lower the ladder into the river, according to Hood and Moore.

    Then the group helped hoist Koppel out, police said.

    Reagan, a graduate student and manager of the outside deck at McLoone's restaurant in Sea Bright, grabbed towels from Chimento's house to dry off Koppel. He was shaking and had trouble talking, said Chimento, who works as the general manager at Sands Beach Club in Sea Bright.

    "I've been a lifeguard for over 10 years," Chimento said. "I knew he had to get out of the water pretty quickly."

    Relationship over


    David Robinson, the state climatologist at Rutgers, said the temperature would have been about freezing along the coast at 2 a.m. Saturday, with river temperatures in the low 40s.

    But that is unusually warm for this time of year, Robinson said.

    Overnight in January, air temperatures are usually in the mid-20s and river temperatures are usually in the mid to low-30s.

    "It really was a combined effort," said Hood of the rescue. "It worked out really good and it worked out for him."

    Police later charged Koppel with disorderly conduct. Moore said Koppel's date whose identity they didn't disclose told police it was only their second date, and there wouldn't be a third.
    A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.

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    Could it be that he was head over heels and off the bridge in love with her?

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