Bridge jumper breaks Missoula man's legs as he floats Clark Fork

2013-07-24T20:00:00Z 2014-07-05T14:28:15Z Bridge jumper breaks Missoula man's legs as he floats Clark Fork missoulian.com

A Missoula man’s legs are broken after a bridge jumper landed on him while he was floating the Clark Fork River last weekend.

While Andy Hill is an avid fisherman and floater, Sunday was his first time on the river in an inner tube. He and his wife, Amy, had so much fun the first time down, they decided to do it again.

They put in at the Sha-Ron access in East Missoula and had just emerged on the downriver side of the Bandmann Bridge when the bridge jumper slammed into Hill’s lap.

Hill never saw the other man coming.

“All of a sudden, I was in intense pain, and I was under water,” Hill said Wednesday, both his legs in braces and propped up in a wheelchair.

The man who jumped and a friend helped pull Hill to shore, where another man helped get him out of the tube before emergency responders arrived.

Later at the hospital, Hill learned that the upper tips of his fibulas were broken and that his ACLs and PCLs likely were torn in both legs. In addition, his left femur is cracked.

A long recovery awaits Hill, who may have to undergo surgery and will be in a wheelchair at least through August and possibly into September.

In the meantime, the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office is recommending a misdemeanor negligent endangerment charge be filed against the bridge jumper. The charging process could take weeks, based on the number of other cases pending evaluation by the County Attorney’s Office.


The couple has kept a sense of humor through the bizarre experience and expressed thanks for those who helped at the scene.

And Hill said there is one positive about the situation.

He’ll be able to work out the kinks in his newly formed FISHabilities program. The nonprofit will enable people with disabilities to enjoy the outdoors and fishing as a form of therapy. Patients won’t be accepted until the spring.

Until then, Hill said, he can be a guinea pig for modifying equipment – an eventuality he never anticipated.

Nonetheless, both husband and wife said they are angry about what happened.

“It’s infuriating, for one, that I’m even in this situation,” Hill said, adding that his wife and children have had to shoulder the bulk of his care.

“I have to rely on them for everything,” he said.

Amy Hill has had to miss work to take her husband to doctor appointments. He was just returning to normal after lung surgery about a month ago and now he needs more medical care for an accident that never should have happened, she said.

“It was totally preventable,” she said.


Convoluted county ordinances prohibit jumping from bridges, said Paige Pavalone, a Missoula County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.

Signs posted at Bandmann Bridge clearly state no jumping is allowed, Pavalone said.

The man who jumped was not arrested because he was injured as well. It is not clear if alcohol contributed to the incident, she added.

The name of the man who jumped has not been released, pending formal charges.

Pavalone said Sunday’s accident seems to be a rare occurrence. However, increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic around popular river spots do heighten the danger for recreationists.

Deputies try to boost patrols, but emergencies take higher precedence.

“We do what we can, but we just ask people to do what they can to follow the rules,” Pavalone said.

Hill said he hopes criminal charges make the person who injured him and anyone else who considers jumping from a bridge think about the consequences.

People downplay the danger of jumping off bridges, for both the jumpers and unsuspecting floaters below, he said.

However, several people have sent him messages telling of close calls. The jumper could have paralyzed him or landed on his wife instead, he said.

“Think about me before you jump off a bridge,” he said.

Reporter Alice Miller can be reached at 523-5251 or at alice.miller@missoulian.com.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(24) Comments

  1. zootownbiker
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    zootownbiker - July 26, 2013 5:30 pm
    Last weekend the cops were issuing parking tickets at MacLay Bridge. There were about a dozen persons jumping from the bridge while he did so. He did not cite anyone for jumping off the bridge, nor even tell them to stop that activity. Certainly if they have resources to ticket cars parked at the bridge, they can cite the jumpers as well. I would think that
    life - endangering activity should have priority over the inconvenience to the neighbors of having cars parked on their posted streets.
  2. Rob Tabish
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    Rob Tabish - July 26, 2013 12:21 pm
    "The man who jumped was not arrested because he was injured as well. It is not clear if alcohol contributed to the incident, The name of the man who jumped has not been released, pending formal charges."

    in other words, there is a chance NOTHING will come of this?

    one key component to this "accident" is that the jumper got himself hurt, as well. the level of MORON needed to be reached in order to complete this scenario is absolutely astounding.

    jumping from the local bridges has been popular in the summer around here forever, but it seems to me that there was always a point among swimmers and jumpers NOT to try to land on anyone below, not only because of the potential injuries it may cause, but it was considered bad manners....at the very least.

    it will be a terrible miscarriage of justice if the un-named jumper isn't given some culpability in this incident, and allows Mr. Hill some recourse in this matter...since there have been obvious signs and known laws pertaining to jumping from bridges for a very long time. i also wonder about the level of responsibility that might belong to the County and City, both of whom i believe have jurisdiction over this bridge.
  3. chezi
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    chezi - July 26, 2013 11:55 am
    Your absolutely correct..there was usually a "spotter"..but even so, I remember well of the "pushers" that would for whatever reason push someone off when they were not prepared. This seemed to happen more when the trestle bridges were up. The more in the river the more prone to accidents and drownings...Sadly, it seems alcohol is very common with all ages around the rivers.
  4. LighteningLou
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    LighteningLou - July 26, 2013 12:23 am
    Build a fire under your state rep
  5. LighteningLou
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    LighteningLou - July 26, 2013 12:22 am
    I'm not an attorney but I see attempted involuntary manslaughter, if there is such a charge. A pathetic misd public endangerment is "sure" to stop illegal bridge jumpers in their tracks, right? Why did law enforcement not order the offender to tested for blood alcohol? In a similar situation an idiot made a left turn from the left lane of an interstate southbound, to the far right northbound lane by jetting through the dirt median. Problem was I happened to be using that lane with no where to go I was t-boned destroying a new SUV along with my right leg and left arm. I had to make a huge deal to force the highway patrol to get the man's blood taken in the hospital. He wasn't hurt BTW, I hit the front passenger door. I have so far paid every cent of my medical expenses, haven't got a dime for 2 months in bed with braces in extreme pain. Sure law enforcement will make a report call EMT's and have vehicles towed. But that's all you can expect. I have never been notified if the guy every had to go to court.
    I hope the gentleman can tap into every assets the clown owns forever, garnish every check, and insure a DA with cajones can be found to press charges of a felonious nature. Good luck sir, you have my greatest sympathy, I know a nightmare someday will place me in your float tube going thru your ordeal.
  6. snickers
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    snickers - July 25, 2013 4:03 pm
    With the amount of people on the water the last few years this isn't at all surprising. Yup, the jumper should have looked, but didn't. With the jumpers and rafters all drunked up, which is usually the case, it's bound to happen.
  7. chezi
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    chezi - July 25, 2013 11:48 am
    Putting fences up will only make a higher place to jump..they have been trying to stop bridge jumpers as long as I can remember...when we were young the bridges were much higher..There were injuries even then..The problem now is there are so many more people floating and jumping it is much more dangerous. I have noticed though, if you remove the people from one place they invariably find another.
  8. boy wonder
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    boy wonder - July 25, 2013 9:30 am
    The cops do show up but you have to call them. My wife who was eight months pregnant was being harassed by a drunk at the Bark Park last summer. She called me, and I called the cops. The cops came and arrested the bum . And then the police followed up with a phone call to me. I was impressed. Don't be afraid to call the fuzz.
  9. familytruckster
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    familytruckster - July 25, 2013 9:15 am
  10. thomascash
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    thomascash - July 25, 2013 9:06 am
    The floater should make a claim with the Crime Victim's Compensation Board if the perp is charged. They can pay up to $25,000. Restitution is a fantasy. Suing him is a waste of time and money.
  11. Roger
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    Roger - July 25, 2013 7:40 am
    It's pure carelessness - as a former bridge jumper, I (and others) knew enough to make sure nobody was floating under the bridge when we jumper or dived. I never saw anybody get hit.
  12. East Coast Girl
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    East Coast Girl - July 25, 2013 6:38 am
    I am sure the jumper is "terribly sorry", but that won't "feed the bulldog".....He should pay the man's medical bills and any time lost that Mr. Hill can't work to feed his family...... If the jumper is young and foolish, then he has learned a lesson even if it takes him YEARS to PAY UP....
  13. raptor53
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    raptor53 - July 25, 2013 6:36 am
    when there are stories such as this, a photo of the moron should be posted so as to support a great outpouring of public ridicule. hopefully, even an old fashion "blanket party" !
  14. familytruckster
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    familytruckster - July 24, 2013 9:23 pm
    What an inane comment, taxi-mom. This could have easily been a fatality. As it is, this man and his family will suffer tremendously.

    A sense of humor is for things that are funny.
  15. MiddleFinger
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    MiddleFinger - July 24, 2013 8:23 pm
    Gotta cross the pond for the real scoop...

  16. GaryTinkSanders
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    GaryTinkSanders - July 24, 2013 8:14 pm
    Where is local law enforcement when you have people drunk and disorderly in public? That is illegal too, but it seems as though they are catered to, the last time I rafted the Blackfoot there was people drinking and throwing their bottles and cans in the water, passing joints around, throwing cigarette and cigar butts in the water and disrespecting the other rafters and tubers. I have a tough time putting up with idiots, so instead of dealing with them I haven't been back to the Blackfoot.
  17. sep924
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    sep924 - July 24, 2013 3:46 pm
    TV had this story on Sunday. Now the Missoulian has to use an AP story while it scrambles on Wednesday to put together its own coverage? Good grief.
  18. GaryTinkSanders
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    GaryTinkSanders - July 24, 2013 2:48 pm
    You are spot on JohnnyB, a lot of the younger members of society get a real rise out of being stupid, they never think about what could happen or weigh the consequences of an accident as the a fore mentioned one. In the old days stupidity like this was dealt with by a smack to the side of the head. I am sure the kid made his parents proud with his display on idiocy.
  19. RileyLemm
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    RileyLemm - July 24, 2013 1:45 pm
    Its a freak accident. Putting fences on the bridges would be like making cars illegal in missoula due to the string of incidents involving walking pedestrians killed by drivers this spring
  20. startingover
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    startingover - July 24, 2013 1:45 pm
    Not too shocking if the people that hang out under the foot bridge by the campus are typical of the jumpers. Last week they were overly drunk, and one of them was berating anyone who crossed the footbridge without jumping. Every person crossing the bridge was subjected to insults, and verbal abuse, they are a real class act. It is the footbridge under the street right by the campus, if you want to avoid rude drunks.
  21. JohnnyB
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    JohnnyB - July 24, 2013 1:33 pm
    If this happened on the Deer Creek bridge, the odds are good that this was not entirely accidental. On several occasions I've launched my raft at the Sha-Ron access right before the bridge. The jumpers, many of whom have been drinking, have taken great delight in jumping as close to the raft as they dare to put a scare in us. Because I have seen the behavior a number of times, I usually move my raft quite a bit laterally once the jumpers-to-be have watched where I went under the bridge. They've voiced disappointment when the raft emerges downstream several yards distant from where they thought it would.

    It's time to start doling out heavy fines for jumping from the bridges. This latest accident could have just as easily been a fatality.
  22. MTcommonsense
    Report Abuse
    MTcommonsense - July 24, 2013 1:01 pm
    "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry" isn't going to pay this guys hospital bills and deductible is it? Odds are the "man" who jumped on him is just a kid with no insurance and no money. It's time to put up fences on the bridges and make tougher punishments for those violating the law.
  23. sukeysafool
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    sukeysafool - July 24, 2013 12:20 pm
    Saw some clowns jumping off the Higgins Street bridge last nigh, almost landed in the middle of a dudes SUP board while the GF sat by and filmed it all.
  24. taxi-mom
    Report Abuse
    taxi-mom - July 24, 2013 12:07 pm
    its a bad deal but at least you have a good story to tell .... keep your sense of humor
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