Peoria Fire Department rescuers recovered the man’s body about 10:30 a.m. near the main channel of the river.
PEORIA, Ill. — A man died Thursday morning after he jumped from the Murray Baker Bridge into the Illinois River during rush hour, authorities said.
Peoria Fire Department rescuers recovered the man’s body about 10:30 a.m. near the main channel of the river, according to battalion chief Rick Morgan.
The body was transported to the Downtown Peoria shore, at the foot of Main Street. There, at 10:57 a.m., Tazewell County Coroner Brian Foley pronounced the man dead.
Foley handled the particulars because the man leaped from the Tazewell County end of the bridge, which carries Interstate 74 across the river. The body also was recovered in Tazewell County, according to Foley.
The coroner did not identify the dead man, pending notification of family. Identification was found on his body.
An autopsy is to be performed Friday morning in Peoria County.
“It’s still an open investigation,” Foley said. “We don’t have all the answers at this time.”
According to authorities, the man was driving west across the bridge about 7:15 a.m. when he stopped his vehicle, exited it, walked to the edge of the north span, climbed over a concrete barrier and jumped.
“It happened so quickly,” Morgan said in recounting witnesses’ accounts. “The guy got out, and they thought he was having some major car issue.”
The bridge sits about 60 feet above the water. The depth of the water can be 3 to 4 feet away from the main channel and at least 9 feet in it, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Rescue boats began the search about 8 on a cool, sunny morning in the area north of the bridge near the East Peoria bank. Rescue vehicles were parked just south of the bridge on the Peoria and East Peoria sides of the water.
By 10 a.m., at least five boats involved in the search prowled closer to the main channel. Marine traffic on the river was prohibited, save for a barge that already was in the channel.
The body was recovered a few dozen yards south of the bridge, it appeared.
Crews used sonar to find the body, according to Morgan. Sonar uses sound waves to pinpoint submerged objects.
“Originally, they found a couple of things that looked like a body, but they were logs and things like that,” Morgan said. “They re-positioned the sonar until they found (it).”
Eastbound and westbound traffic on the bridge was congested for almost two hours.
Traffic on the westbound Bob Michel Bridge between East Peoria and Peoria was heavy with detouring vehicles.
Illinois State Police reported a three-vehicle accident on the westbound lanes of the Murray Baker Bridge as a result of the man’s vehicle being stopped.
A state police news release did not state the identities of the drivers, nor the makes and models of the vehicles. Additional information was expected later Thursday, according to State Police Trooper Lisa Osborne.
The westbound lanes were cleared and reopened about 9 a.m., the news release stated.
Representatives of multiple law-enforcement and public-safety jurisdictions reported to the scenes. Among them were East Peoria fire and police departments, Fondulac Park District Police, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Peoria County Coroner’s office, Peoria fire and police, state police, the Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Nick Vlahos is a reporter for the Peoria (Ill.) Journal-Star.