October 21, 2014

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Woman jumps to her death off bridge

SHEFFIELD – A visibly pregnant woman died Sunday after jumping off a bridge in view of stunned drivers.

When Jennifer Eckenrode saw the woman leaning on the railing of the Garfield Bridge over the Black River on state Route 254 around 5:55 p.m. Sunday, she thought she was just sightseeing and continued driving.

But Eckenrode’s husband, Eddie Eckenrode, thought differently. Eddie Eckenrode, who was in a car behind his wife as they drove west across the bridge, called his wife on her phone.

“He said, ‘She looks like she’s depressed and she’s going to jump over the bridge (railing),’ ” Jennifer Eckenrode said about 90 minutes after the woman’s body was found in the Black River after the apparent suicide. “I just thought, ‘Well, she’s just probably looking over.’ She had her arms up on the ledge and was staring around.”

A few minutes later, Rima Beil was stopped at the light at the intersection of East River Road and Route 254 when she said she glanced over her left shoulder and saw the woman climb over the railing on the south side of the bridge and jump.

“For a second there, I was like, there’s no way I just saw a woman jump off a bridge,” said Beil, 24, of Lorain. “I pulled over because I started freaking out because I was like, I can’t believe I just saw that.”

Beil and her 16-year-old cousin and passenger Amanie Khalil, said they parked and walked back to the bridge, but couldn’t see the woman. Beil said another couple also stopped and said they’d seen the woman jump.

“Then I knew that I just wasn’t being crazy,” Beil said. “There was an actual lady.”

The woman plunged some 100 yards into the river, which is between a rock ledge and woods. The area is near the Bur Oak picnic area along the Bridgeway Trail.

Around 6:50 p.m., a total of five sheriff’s deputies and Sheffield police officers stood near the woman’s body, which had floated about a quarter mile north downstream. The white woman, who was visibly pregnant and in her 20s or 30s, lay on her back in ankle-deep water, her right arm across her chest.

She was wearing white shorts and a halter top and sneakers. A backpack that apparently belonged to the woman lay in the river about 10 yards away.

Around 7:15 p.m., firefighters removed the woman from the river on a stretcher and covered her body with a white sheet. Lorain County Deputy Coroner James Miller said Sunday night that an autopsy would be performed and he expected to identify the woman today.

Jennifer Eckenrode, 32, of Lorain, said she realized there was probably nothing she could have done to prevent the death, but was still shaken by it.

“Just to think you could’ve maybe stopped something so somebody could get help,” Eckenrode said as she rubbed her eyes. “It’s crazy.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.