A Stevensville man who led police on a chase early yesterday, then stopped his car on the Bay Bridge and jumped about 35 feet into the chilly water, was missing last night, Maryland transportation police said.
Catherine Leahan, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, said yesterday that investigators are trying to determine why James Clark Lewis, 30, leaped from the span around 2:30 a.m. after fleeing police who were attempting to stop him for speeding.
Police said Lewis survived the fall and called for help, but that they lost sight of him after about 20 minutes.
Authorities called off a full-scale search for Lewis about 9 a.m. yesterday, though occasional checks of the area were being conducted.
According to Sgt. Rob Maroney of the Maryland State Police, the incident began when a state trooper attempted to stop Lewis, who was observed speeding on eastbound U.S. 50 near the Kent Narrows bridge.
Maroney said Lewis did not stop for the trooper and led police along Kent Island roads before getting back onto U.S. 50, this time heading west.
Several transportation authority police officers joined the pursuit -- which officials said never exceeded 55 mph -- before Lewis drove his Mercury sedan onto the span about a quarter-mile and stopped.
Lewis then got out of his car and jumped over the side of the bridge, Leahan said. He said nothing, jumping without warning police about what he planned to do, she said.
Lewis became silent and disappeared from sight in the water around 2:50 a.m., Leahan said.
A state police helicopter, fire and rescue crews, Maryland Natural Resources Police and the U.S. Coast Guard assisted in the search.
Although Lewis had not been declared dead late yesterday, public safety officials believe there is only a slim chance of finding him alive.
Cpl. Ken Turner of the Natural Resources Police said that the bay's water temperature -- 54 degrees early yesterday, according to the National Weather Service -- would make Lewis' chances of survival less likely.
"You cant last ... a long time out there," Turner said.