BEVERLY — High tide and the work of police and firefighters helped save the life of a 35-year-old woman who jumped from the highest point of the Beverly-Salem bridge last night.
Before going over, the woman called her aunt to say she intended to jump, according to Salem police. The aunt arrived on the scene too late to speak to her niece but in time to see her go off the bridge, Lt. Mary Butler said.
The aunt called for help around 7:53 p.m.
The woman was described as "conscious and alert" with dangerous hypothermia but no visible injuries after quick action brought her out of the frigid waters.
Salem firefighters had routinely tested a small, inflatable rescue boat only that morning to ensure it was running optimally. Getting it in the water proved a challenge, however, Deputy fire Chief Gerry Giunta said. More than a half-dozen men were required to carry the boat over the rocks to a launch point off the old Beverly-Salem bridge, on the Salem side.
Meanwhile, Giunta raced to the top of the bridge with thermal imaging equipment that quickly located the woman.
"She showed up as a small bit of heat from her head," he said.
The incoming tide had pushed her toward the MBTA bridge, where she was soon spotted by Patrolman Roberson Troncoso.
"He grabbed one of the life rings on the trestle," Butler said.
Troncoso threw the life ring to the woman, and she swam toward the sound of his voice. Next, she was held against the train bridge and encouraged by Salem officers, also including Kevin St. Pierre and Sgt. Stephen Bona, to hang on until a rescue vessel could reach her.
MBTA traffic was delayed while the attempt to save her was ongoing.
Also responding to the emergency were the Beverly police, Beverly Fire Department, and the harbormasters from both Salem and Beverly. Of the vessels in the water, the Salem inflatable with its low sides was the most practical for pulling the woman out.
As Salem fire Capt. Alan Dionne and Lt. Scott Austin reached her, they noted that the woman was suffering from hypothermia. While not severe for January, the air and water temperatures were both in the mid- to high 30s.
"She was cold," Dionne said.
She made no sound as Dionne and Austin pulled her onto the port side of their vessel.
"She didn't say a word," Austin said.
"She did it during a high tide," Dionne said, speculating that this probably helped her survive the leap.
Giunta estimated that the woman dropped up to 70 feet. The aunt and the woman's boyfriend watched the rescue from the bridge, Butler said.
The woman was brought ashore on the Beverly side. She remained silent and moved very little as she was lifted into an Atlantic ambulance by Beverly firefighters for the trip to Beverly Hospital.
It took only three minutes from the time of the call to the time that the Salem fire rescue team arrived at the bridge, Giunta said. Assisting in getting the boat into the water were Lt. Keith Pelletier and firefighters P.J. Finamore, Ben Potvin, James Keon, Steve Toomey and Sean Edge.
"It was all a team effort," Giunta said, a sentiment echoed by Butler.
"Hopefully, she'll be OK," Giunta said.