Bay Bridge plunge kills rescue worker

July 05, 1994|By Anne Haddad and Tom Bowman | Anne Haddad and Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Writers

An Anne Arundel County rescue squad pulled one of its own men from the Chesapeake Bay yesterday about 45 minutes after the man jumped off the Bay Bridge in an apparent suicide.

Timothy J. Hines, 31, of Woodland Beach in Edgewater, spent the last 24 hours of his life working an overtime shift for a co-worker at the West Annapolis fire station.

He had slept at the station, as is the custom for a 24-hour shift, said Battalion Chief J. Gary Sheckells, spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.

Mr. Hines awoke between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. and was due to start his own regular 24-hour shift at 7 a.m., Chief Sheckells said.

A few minutes after 7 a.m., co-workers noticed he was missing. TC They called his home and couldn't reach him there.

"Other shift members noticed he wasn't around. They were concerned that he had just left the station without saying anything," Chief Sheckells said.

"They began looking for him. Within minutes, the call came in."

At 7:19 a.m., a motorist using a car phone called the Anne Arundel County Police Department to report that a man had just jumped off the middle of the eastbound span of the Bay Bridge.

Rescue workers went to the scene and recognized Mr. Hines' car parked on the bridge.

A county rescue boat and one from the Annapolis Police Department searched the waters as the crews' fears mounted that Mr. Hines was the man for whom they were searching. He was well known by county and city rescue workers, Chief Sheckells said, and the workers on the boats knew him.

The chief said rescuers on one of the boats found Mr. Hines' body about 8 a.m.

His body was brought to shore at Sandy Point and taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

No suicide note was found at the station, Chief Sheckells said, but Mr. Hines' co-workers said he had been despondent.

"He had been experiencing personal problems and had relayed that information to some of his co-workers," Chief Sheckells said.

He said co-workers were nevertheless surprised and shocked at Mr. Hines' death, and spent the rest of the morning in a "debriefing" to help them deal with the loss.

"Many of these people not only lost a good co-worker, but they lost a good friend," Chief Sheckells said.

At the station yesterday afternoon, about eight other firefighters were working their shift, the one Mr. Hines would have worked. They went about their business, storing boots and gear. On a long rack that held their coats and hats, the spot with Mr. Hines' name and No. 379 was empty.

Between calls, shift workers sat around a conference table, most of them quiet, some talking softly with each other. They declined to be interviewed.

Mr. Hines had been a career firefighter with the county for 11 years and was the son of a retired career firefighter, Chief Sheckells said.

The spokesman said Mr. Hines was married to Michelle Hines and had two sons, ages 6 and 8.

In addition to city and county crews, the Department of Natural Resources Police and the U.S. Coast Guard assisted in the search for Mr. Hines, the spokesman said.

Word of Mr. Hines' death spread quickly among the county's fire stations. Many firefighters didn't want to be interviewed, but fire officials went to the stations to help the crew members talk with each other.

Some said they had been told by their chiefs not to talk with reporters.

At the Woodland Beach Fire Station, not far from Mr. Hines' home, fellow firefighter Dave Williams, 30, shook his head slowly.

"I never thought anything like this would happen, especially today," he said, referring to the holiday.

Mr. Williams said he had known Mr. Hines since early in their careers, when they both worked at the Woodland Beach station.

"Great person to be around," Mr. Williams said.

He said he saw Mr. Hines Sunday, when the house next door to Mr. Hines' was hit by lightning and both their companies responded.

"He went over and checked his house to make sure it was all right," Mr. Williams said.

Others in the station sat around in a dark room yesterday, watching the movie "Gettysburg" on television.

"I don't want to talk about it, just something bad that happened," said Firefighter Kevin Trader, 23.

A firefighter at the Galesville Fire Station, who declined to give his name, said that because of the nature of the long shifts, the workers are like second families to each other.

"We live one-third of our lives together," the man explained.

Usually, he said, the crises they deal with involve others who have lost loved ones in fires and accidents.

"I'm still trying to make heads or tails out of it [Mr. Hines' death]," he said.

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