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Crews still search for man who jumped from Broad River bridge early Tuesday

Crews combed the Broad River on Tuesday, searching for a man who jumped off the Broad River bridge around 9 a.m. Workers from various northern Beaufort County fire departments, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Coast Guard were unable to find the man Tuesday. The search was expected to resume today.
Crews combed the Broad River on Tuesday, searching for a man who jumped off the Broad River bridge around 9 a.m. Workers from various northern Beaufort County fire departments, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Coast Guard were unable to find the man Tuesday. The search was expected to resume today. JONATHAN DYER | The Beaufort Gazette

The man on the Broad River Bridge took off his blue T-shirt.

Then his pants.

"It's not every day that you see someone undressing on the side of a bridge," said Dan Brahm, who was commuting from Bluffton to his job at CIMTechniques in Beaufort on Tuesday morning.

Brahm watched as the man paced back and forth along the shoulder of the bridge's southbound lanes.

And then the man jumped.

"I couldn't believe it," Brahm said. "I was in complete shock."

Brahm and other witnesses quickly contacted Beaufort County Dispatch, resulting in a search that started minutes after a man -- identified by the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office as Walter Earl Pinkney, 41, of Beaufort -- leapt from the 50-foot-high, 1.6-mile-long bridge. The search continued most of the day Tuesday and is expected to resume today.

Boats from Beaufort County Water Search and Rescue, the Parris Island Fire Rescue Division and the Burton Fire District slowly trolled the Broad River looking for any signs of Pinkney.

After two hours, the Burton Fire District shifted the focus of the operation from search-and-rescue to recovery, handing the reins to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

Deputies scanned the area with binoculars from the Broad River Landing and from atop the bridge, and they collected the man's clothes as evidence.

"We have conducted a very thorough search of every area he could possibly be in," Burton Fire District Deputy Chief Tom Webb said.

Beaufort County sheriff spokeswoman Robin McIntosh did not know if authorities were classifying the incident as a suicide or an accident.

"We will keep looking tonight until we can no longer see and start shortly after daylight tomorrow,"said Lt. Gentry Thames, DNR spokesman. "We will continue to search until we've exhausted all possibilities of locating the subject."

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