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Mass. Officer Jumps Into River to Rescue Man

May 23--LAWRENCE -- A police officer jumped in the Merrimack River and rescued a troubled man who threw himself off the Central bridge yesterday evening.

Officer Joseph Padellaro was able to grab Julio Santiago's belt and pull him to safety around 6 p.m, Sgt. Scott McNamara wrote in an incident report.

Santiago, 21, of 77 Exeter St. was taken to Lawrence General Hospital for treatment and evaluation.

His ex-girlfriend called police earlier in the evening after receiving a text from Santiago who said he planned to jump off a bridge somewhere in Lawrence, McNamara said.

All available officers were immediately dispatched to the three bridges that span the Merrimack River. Minutes later, Officer Mark Panagiotakos found Santiago on the Central Bridge.

Santiago had climbed over a safety railing and was seated on a concrete platform near the center of the bridge about 60 feet above the river. Santiago told the officer he wanted to kill himself "because of problems with my girl," according to the police report.

Panagiotakos tried to reason with Santiago, but he suddenly jumped from the bridge, dropping 60 feet and then submerging about 20 feet into the water below.

Santiago could have been hurt "as he appeared listless and was either unable or unwilling to swim and was barely keeping his head above water," McNamara wrote.

He directed officers to watch him in the water, in the hopes of tossing a flotation device to him or a boat could be launched. But as he flowed with the current, several officers tried but could not get the float to him.

Just as Santiago passed under the Duck bridge, Padellaro hopped in and grabbed him, McNamara said.

Lawrence firefighters and Patriot ambulance personnel also assisted with the search and rescue last night.