Authorities suspend search for missing man who jumped from ‘Jaws’ bridge over Martha’s Vineyard

Tavaughn and his older brother, Tavaris Bulgin, 26, were with two friends when they jumped off the bridge made famous in the movie “Jaws” around 11 p.m. Sunday. The spot is a popular spot for swimmers.

Two members of the group made it out of the water safe and sound, but not the brothers. The body of Tavaris Bulgin was recovered around 6:30 a.m. Monday.

State Police divers returned Tuesday morning and searched the entrance and pond side of the bridge, but did not find Tavaughn Bulgin, David Procopio, a state police spokesman, said in an email.

Crews then moved to the seaward side of the bridge to continue the search but “were hampered by poor weather which caused dangerous conditions” and suspended the day’s search at 1 p.m., Procopio said.

A vigil was held at the brothers’ home community of Palmers Cross in the parish of Clarendon in south-central Jamaica on Monday evening, according to the Reverend Rhoan Parkins, spokesman for the Bulgin family.

Parkins said Tavaughn and Tavaris Bulgin are part of the community and active in the Palmers Cross New Testament Church of God, where their father, Reverend Keith Bulgin, serves as pastor.

As the search resumed Tuesday morning, Parkins asked for prayers for the Bulgin family and the wider community as they reeled from the tragedy.

“While family is at the heart of it all, there are ripple effects all around them,” he said in an interview Tuesday morning. “We hope people will say a prayer for the congregation and the community while praying for the family.”

The bridge was calm during a windy and cloudy Tuesday afternoon. Flowers and a framed photo of the brothers were placed on the bridge in an area where people commonly jump.

Tuesday morning, officials said the environmental police were using side-scan sonar and State Police divers had returned to the area in hopes of finding the missing man.

The brothers were seasonal workers at Nomans restaurant in Oak Bluffs, according to a spokesperson for the family and officials.

The restaurant remained closed on Tuesday and the parking lot was empty. A Instagram post said it would likely reopen on Wednesday. Nomans has the same owners as the famous port restaurant Nancy’s in Oak Bluffs. Nancy employees said Tuesday morning they did not want to discuss the tragedy.

The brothers, the second and third children in the Bulgin family, also had two sisters, a family spokesperson said.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the family home in Clarendon throughout Monday to mourn as news of the incident began to spread through the community. Parkins described an emotional scene outside the home and said the community felt “utter shock” at the loss.

“There was silence, there was screaming, there was moaning, people were holding their heads, people were collapsing on their feet – all the spectrums of emotional distress were on display,” he said. declared. “These young men showed promise and they interacted extremely well with the community.”

Parkins said Tavaughn Bulgin played keyboards for the church and helped set up technology to stream services online, while Tavaris Bulgin served as the Sunday School superintendent. Both brothers attended college in Jamaica and studied business, he said.

“They made themselves and their parents proud,” he said.

On a typical summer day, dozens of people line the ocean side of the “Jaws” bridge waiting to jump into the water despite “no diving or jumping” signs placed prominently. view at both ends. But Oak Bluffs Fire Chief Nelson Wirtz said the waters can be dangerous, especially for beginning swimmers. He urged anyone who chooses to ignore safety warnings to wear a life jacket.

Shortly after authorities left the area following their search on Monday, people returned to the bridge and began jumping into the rapid waters below.

State Senator Julian Cyr, who represents Martha’s Vineyard, called the incident “truly tragic” for communities in Massachusetts and Jamaica in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon, but said he didn’t know how to make the area safer.

Displaying state or local law enforcement on the bridge to suppress the jumps would be a poor use of limited police resources, he said. Instead, he said the focus should be on training Cape Town and the islands’ increasingly international seasonal workforce.

“This should remind our communities that everyone who lives in and visits our communities, but especially our seasonal workforce, [must have] some level of education or information about the risks, especially of the marine environment,” Cyr said. “These waters are beautiful and hopefully pristine, but should not be taken lightly.”

A jump off the Jaws Bridge is a summer tradition for many who visit the island, said Todd Rebello, owner of four Oak Bluffs t-shirt shops. Among his inventory are shirts that show an illustration of people jumping off the bridge as a great white shark emerges from the water with its mouth wide open, as well as a message that reads, “I jumped off the bridge Jaws …and I lived to talk about it.

The shirt was on display in a storefront on the corner of Circuit Avenue on Tuesday. Rebello said it has no plans to remove the shirts from its shelves.

“It’s an 80-year tradition,” Rebello said of the people jumping off the bridge. Nevertheless, he noted, the inhabitants of the vineyard are in shock after the tragedy.

“Everyone on the island is shaken,” he said.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

John R. Ellement can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe. Brittany Bowker can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @brittbowker and on Instagram @brittbowker. Nick Stoico can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.

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