Norfolk, Va. – A secluded spot under the Granby Street Bridge is where Army combat veteran Mark Hill comes for quiet time.
He calls it water therapy. When the rush-hour traffic gives way, and the sun starts going down, it’s the best time of day.
Hill says several times a weekend, someone takes a leap from the bridge, splashing into the Lafayette River below.
“You hear that big splash, bam, it scares you. And then you hear a bunch of people laughing,” says Mark Hill.
“Maybe it’s a rite of passage, or kids just think it’s fun,” says Hill.
A plunge this weekend ended badly. Joey Callahan, a 21-year-old Maury High School graduate, jumped into the water with a 17-year-old girl. She surfaced, but he didn’t.
Since then, parents around the school have found out from their kids that leaping from Norfolk bridges is just something they do. It’s a tradition, they say.
Some Maury kids confided to NewsChannel 3’s Mike Mather that it’s something of a thrill-seeking baptism, a story you can always brag about. And that matches what Mark Hill says.
“It’s done more than you think,” says Hill.
But there’s no doubt it’s dangerous.
Even at the surface, the river water is brown and murky. Stringy jellyfish float like ghosts. A few feet down, it’s darker still. And a second after the splash, you’d be at the bottom, and see nothing. In the middle of the day, the bed of the Lafayette is pitch black. The current moves swiftly, and can suck a swimmer into the concrete pilings.
Police say they have no way to track how often people leap from the bridge or others near it. Most jumpers scamper away before the cops show up. But on Sunday, that didn’t happen and a young life was lost.