Fugitive survives 100-foot dive

July 24, 1992|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

A complaint about a loud car radio led to a chase early yesterday that ended with a spectacular dive from the Gov. Thomas Johnson Bridge more than 100 feet above the Patuxent River.

Timothy Kenneth Hoofnagle, 28, of Lusby in Calvert County was in fair condition last night with no serious injuries at the Washington Hospital Center trauma unit.

Maryland State Police and sheriff's deputies in St. Mary's County said that on release from the hospital Mr. Hoofnagle would be charged with numerous offenses, including: eluding police, driving while his license is suspended or revoked and possession of a small amount of marijuana.

The chase began after a St.Mary's County sheriff's deputy responded to a complaint about a loud car radio at 3 a.m. on Route 237 at Route 246 in Great Mills. He saw a red 1980 Chevrolet Chevette take off, heading generally north to Route 235, near Route 4, where two state police cruisers joined the pursuit. They attempted a rolling roadblock, but the Chevette broke free, driving at 75 to 80 mph, authorities said.

A sheriff's car rammed the Chevette, sending it spinning three times, but it then sped onto the two-lane bridge, said state police Sgt. Stephen F. Vail.

The police cars surrounded the car on the bridge, but in the middle at its highest point over the river, the driver stopped, got out of the car and jumped off, Sergeant Vail said.

"It's a pretty high bridge, more than 100 feet," Sergeant Vail said.

The jumper swam about a quarter-mile to the St. Mary's County shore, climbed out of the river and met a waiting K-9 officer with a dog.

Despite injuries from the jump, the man tried to run, but the dog bit him, police said. He stopped and was arrested.

The lone passenger in the car, identified as Robert Barrett, 31, of Lexington Park, was arrested also and charged with possession of marijuana.

The chase lasted about 20 minutes and covered about 11 miles, Sergeant Vail said.

"It was kind of a spectacular finish," Sergeant Vail said. "They just couldn't believe he jumped off the bridge.

"We've had people commit suicide off that bridge."

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