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East Missoula bridge jumper charged after knocking man unconscious
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East Missoula bridge jumper charged after knocking man unconscious

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Just weeks after a bridge jumper was sentenced for injuring a man he landed on in the Clark Fork River last summer, a second man is accused of jumping from the same East Missoula bridge Saturday evening, knocking a person below unconscious.

Charles David Ament, 37, is accused of a misdemeanor negligent endangerment charge for jumping from Bandmann Bridge and landing on a 27-year-old man, leaving him unconscious in the water with a serious head laceration.

According to the affidavit filed by Deputy Missoula County Attorney Shaun Donovan, the victim jumped from the bridge first and Ament followed moments later, vaulting off the railing after doing a handstand. Ament struck the man’s head with his leg when he landed in the water.

When Missoula County sheriff’s deputies arrived about 8:29 p.m., the victim was unconscious and still in the water. Swimmers held him afloat and brought him back to the south bank of the river, where he regained consciousness.

Ament violated his probation on a felony drug charge by consuming alcohol before jumping into the river, Donovan said Monday during Ament’s initial appearance in Missoula County Justice Court.

“This is a misdemeanor, and ordinarily I would be fine with a release (on recognizance), particularly with an employed person with a local address,” Donovan said. “The problem here is that Mr. Ament is a persistent felony offender who’s on probation.”

Donovan said Ament was convicted of a felony drug charge in 2010 and committed to the Department of Corrections for 12 years, seven of which were suspended. He was not allowed to consume alcohol as a condition of his release, Donovan said.

According to the affidavit, Ament smelled of alcohol and exhibited signs of intoxication Saturday, but refused to submit to a breath test. Donovan said Ament continued to refuse even when ordered to take the test by his probation officer.

In an interview with police, Ament apparently admitted to jumping onto the man in the water.

“He told deputies he saw and ignored signs that jumping from the bridge was illegal and admitted he did not look below before doing a handstand (on) the bridge railing and dropping into the water, despite having seen (the victim) jump into the river moments before,” the affidavit said.

At Providence St. Patrick Hospital, deputies interviewed the victim, who received eight staples to his head to close the deep laceration. The man said he, too, saw signs prohibiting jumping from the bridge but did so anyway. Missoula County Sheriff’s Department public information officer Paige Pavalone said he was not cited.

Acting Justice of the Peace Marie Andersen set Ament’s bail at $5,000.

The incident comes nearly a year after Corey Hewitt jumped off the same bridge, seriously injuring floater Andy Hill. Hill suffered two broken legs in the July 21, 2013, incident and still walks with a cane.

On July 3, Justice of the Peace Amy Blixt ordered Hewitt to pay more than $22,500 in restitution after a six-person jury found him guilty of negligent endangerment earlier in the week.

Reporter Kathryn Haake can be reached at 523-5268 or at kate.haake@missoulian.com.

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A man injured by a bridge jumper while floating the Clark Fork River last summer now alleges Missoula County also was at fault for his severe injuries. In a lawsuit filed earlier this month, Andy Hill contends that Missoula County “willfully and wantonly breached” its duty to safely construct and maintain the Bandmann Bridge in East Missoula.

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