Pic Of The Day #98

The Saugatuck River and railroad bridge, as seen from the railroad station parking lot. Enlarge and look closely: A couple of swimmers are getting ready to jump off the bridge. (Photo/Dan Woog)

14 responses to “Pic Of The Day #98

  1. Will Luedke

    Cool pic. The JK Rowling detective novels that I think you liked were under the name Robert Galbreath. The names are something like The Silkworm, Cuckoos Nest. And Evil Career or something close.

  2. Kathie Bennewitz

    Dan, you have a great eye!

  3. Nancy Hunter

    Stand By Me?

  4. I’ve seen many views of the bridge and this is certainly different from all others. In March 1974 my brother Chris Downey climbed to the catwalk seen in the photo. It was not the first time he’d done the climb to make photos. But on that fateful day, electricity arched from a power line and he was electrocuted. What followed was a chain of events shaping our family … a story quite remarkable but would take more space than I wish to fill now.

    • Did your brother survive? I hope !

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

      So sad. I was in college in Indiana at the time and only heard about it. Are my recollections correct that there was another boy with Chris who was also burned and lost a arm/leg or was that a separate incident? My deepest condolences to you and my old friend Tom. That kind of pain never goes away.

  5. No. He died instantly. The fire department was called because a brush fire had ignited. One of the firemen happened to look upward and saw his body caught by lower wires. His burning body had dropped through a burned out hole in the catwalk, fragments of clothing having started the brush fire. That was in March. In August that year, I took a job as a photographer in the building south of ‘The Black Duck’. For the year I worked there (Publisher’s Graphics), my studio window had a view of the bridge and catwalk. As said, it’s a remarkable story and what I’ve told is just the beginning.

    • Jeanine Esposito

      Hi Rob –
      What a tragic story – I’m sure it shaped so much in your life and that of your family. If you happen to be back here in Westport on August 6, we would love to have you show some of your photographs and tell that story at Beechwood Arts for our annual summer event, “The Beechwood Open” You can see more about us at http://www.beechwoodarts.org

    • Wendy Crowther

      Rob, I remember that tragic story and day. In fact, I still think of it every time I take a hard look at the RR bridge. I didn’t know your brother, nor did I remember his name after all these years, but I did remember that he’d climbed up there to take photos. I’m so sorry for your loss and I hope that somehow, your remarkable story is one of resilience and recovery.

    • Jonathan Maddock, Staples '73

      Chris was a remarkable artist. He attended Hillspoint Grammar School and was in my 6th grade class with Mrs. Mills as the teacher. His talent and abilities left a lasting impression upon me.

  6. Harry Smiley

    Technically it is trespassing

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

      Maybe so but there is such a thing as an “attractive nuisance”. I’m sure Amtrak’s attorneys scrambled feverishly in March of ’74.

  7. Joshua Stien

    There are safety and legal concerns with jumping off that bridge. It looks like they are jumping right into a federal navigation channel that vessels frequent. A few years ago, someone jumped and missed hitting their head on my boat by an inch. Luckily they fell off to the side so they did not go under my boat. They were also lucky they didn’t fall on and injure one of my passengers. There is no clear line of sight to see what vessel is on the other side of the bridge and could be passing underneath (and vice a versa for a boater to see someone is about to jump). Not too mention swimmers should not be impeding vessel traffic as that area is very difficult to navigate due to the river in desperate need of dredging, the currents, and many uninformed boaters, kayakers, rowers, and SUP’ers. The current is very strong in that river. I’ve had to go retrieve folks swept away in the current. It is likely trespassing as most of the places folks jump from are only accessible by stepping off of the pedestrian walkway. It is likely trespassing when they are climbing back or getting to shore. There is a lot of infrastructure in that area – boat docks, railroad equipment, etc – lots of possible stray electrical currents. Simply put, this is not a safe activity.

  8. Rob- I grew up with your brother Chris Downey. He was one of several exceptional artist in our Staples class of ’73. I was working at Mario’s the day/evening of his death. The fire department came to put a brush fire out, and then left as I recall; only to be called out again to the same location. Your brother Chris was a fun, upbeat, smart, ‘kind-to-all’ good guy. He had many friends from across all the “clicks”. You could feel the sadness in the whole town.

    Another good friend of mine broke a bone in his neck back in the early ’70’s jumping off the high-way bridge into the water. He had to ware a “Halo” for weeks and recovered the movement/feelings in his hands.