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DNR officer saves man in Detroit River suicide attempt

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

A man was saved from an attempted suicide Saturday morning after he leaped from the MacArthur Bridge connecting Belle Isle to the rest of Detroit, officials said.

The unnamed 49-year-old Detroiter called his mother around 10:45 a.m. and told her he had “relapsed on drugs; he loved her, but could not do it anymore,” according to a Department of Natural Resources press release.

DNR Officer Richard Cardenas, stationed on Belle Isle, received an emergency dispatch after the despondent man’s mother called 911.

He arrived within one minute and noticed a van headed northbound, away from the island. The vehicle then turned around, traveled back toward the island and stopped in the middle of the bridge’s 2,356-foot span.

“A man wearing a dark hooded sweater and dark pants got out of the van, closed the door on the vehicle, and climbed over two railings to get on the outside edge of the bridge. The distraught man was now on the west edge of the bridge, facing the river,” officials said in the release. “He paused for about two seconds before jumping into the Detroit River.”

The man plunged about 30 feet into the water, officials said.

Cardenas rushed to the edge of the bridge and located the man struggling to stay afloat and yelling for help, officials said. He was around 150 feet from shore.

The officer encouraged the man to keep kicking and swimming while he retrieved a “ResQ” disc from his vehicle. The Frisbee-shaped item is attached to a rope and is used in water and ice rescues.

Cardenas tossed the disc into the river and coached the man into grabbing it and wrapping it around his body to help stay afloat. The officer then held the rope tight until Detroit Police Sgt. Michael Carpenter arrived around 10:55 a.m. in a city harbormaster boat.

Carpenter pulled the man onto the boat and took him to the harbormaster’s station, where he appeared cold but otherwise in good condition.

He was taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital for treatment by 11:05 a.m., just 20 minutes after the initial emergency dispatch. The man was admitted and is expected to make a full recovery.

“(Cardenas) is a very hard working officer and we are very happy with his performance,” said Lt. Gerald Thayer, the officer’s supervisor. “He is always proactive in getting a job done, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that he responded to this incident in a timely manner and immediately deployed the ResQ Disc to save a life.”

Cardenas typically works patrol in Barry County in the DNR Law Enforcement Division’s District 7, according to officials. He was on a Belle Isle shift during the Saturday rescue.

HFournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

@HollyPFournier