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Body recovered from Potomac

By Staff | Oct 7, 2011

Emergency personnel work to remove the body of a 55-year-old Pennsylvania man after he reportedly jumped from the James Rumsey Bridge that connects Shepherdstown and Maryland Wednesday afternoon. (Ogden Newspapers photo by Chris Jackson)

Area officials recovered the body of a 55-year-old Waynesboro, Pa., man from the Potomac River Wednesday afternoon after he jumped from the Rumsey Bridge outside of Shepherdstown.

In an apparent suicide, Dennis Martz jumped from the bridge, prompting several eye witnesses to call responders at 2:13 p.m., according to Jefferson County Emergency Services Director Doug Pittinger. The first unit was on the scene at 2:15 p.m., according to Sgt. R.L. Fletcher of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

“(W)e had three people witness him climb on to the rail on the (Md.) Route 34 bridge and jump off in an apparrent suicide,” said Dep. David Haugh of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. “The medical examiner has been notified, but all of the current evidence and witnesses point to that.”

Fletcher said the current took the body downstream, prompting two officers to get into a local’s personal boat to recover the body.

“(The local) drove his boat up the river to where the sheriffs were and they asked him if they could commandeer the boat, which they basically did,” Haugh said. “He drove them over to where the body was and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office pulled him out of the water.”

The body was then handed off to the Potomac Valley Fire and Rescue’s boat. Haugh said that Martz’s body, lifeless when pulled out of the river, was in the water no more than 10 minutes.

Two eye witnesses were under the bridge on the Maryland side when the subject jumped. Shepherd University students Andrea Rouillard and Casey Ferrell, both 21, said they saw a splash when Martz hit the Potomac River’s waters.

“We heard a really loud noise,” Ferrell said.

“We didn’t know what it was,” Rouillard said, noting the two saw movement in the water.

They then drove over to Rumsey Park to get a better look. That’s when they saw the body.

Ferrell and Rouillard gave statements to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

Fletcher said that because the river is in the Washington County, Md., jurisdiction, it will handle the investigation. Haugh said the body has been handed over to the Medical Examiner’s Office and was transported to Baltimore, Md., to determine an official cause of death.

According to Haugh, after speaking with the Waynesboro Police Department and Martz’s family members, the victim had attempted suicide before. His car was found parked at the Bavarian Inn, just yards away from the Rumsey Bridge.

“The victim appearently drove himself down here,” Haugh said.

According to Haugh, units assisting in the recovery were the Washington County (Md.) Sheriff’s Office, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the Maryland State Police, the Shepherdstown Police Department, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Potomac Valley Fire and Rescue.