Neuse River riverkeeper on bridge jumpers: 'You're just asking to hurt yourself'

Friday, June 29, 2018
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ITEAM reports on the possible risks of the Neuse River

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- It may be a generational pastime, but that doesn't make it any less dangerous.

A recent injury to a Triangle teenager has both first-responders and riverkeepers warning of the risks involved jumping from a bridge into the Neuse River, a spot known locally as "The Pipes."

Located near Capital Boulevard in northeast Raleigh, the jump site is a short walk through the weeds off the Neuse River Greenway; the bridge is covered in spray paint and looks like it's been abandoned for years.

"There are so many ways to enjoy the Neuse River and not be an idiot," Matthew Starr, the Neuse's Riverkeeper with Sound Rivers, quips to ABC11."This is not a lake, this is not a bridge in Wrightsville Beach. Most of the river is knee-depth the whole way across and if there hasn't been a lot of rain, it's even shallower."

Chopper 11HD flew over the bridge and caught video of some teens jumping and swimming in the area, including some treading water, suggesting a depth safe enough to jump - but Starr said that's not a guarantee of a soft bottom.

"Every year we do a massive cleanup and we pull up all kinds of trash, including tires, shopping carts, cash registers. There's rocks, there's tree stumps - and the water is not clear enough to see at the bottom," he said.

According to the Wake County Sheriff's Office, the teenager hurt in a fall earlier this month is recuperating. A spokesman offered no other details about the extent of the injury.

Wake County EMS was also a part of the response, and officials told the I-Team that teens run the risk of a delayed response from crews in the case of an emergency because of the tough terrain.

"Any delay is critical - those minutes could be a big difference in the patient's suffering," Jeff Hammerstein, Assistant Chief of Wake County EMS, told ABC11. ""The other issue with that is when we're talking about navigating through this type of terrain - there are issues for responder safety as well. Are we going to get hurt in a fall trying to make our way through there?"

The U.S. Geological Service (USGS) measures the river's depth and flow via several gauges along the Neuse and other streams and creeks in Wake County.