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Body discovered by tugboat operator, sent to Baltimore for autopsy

By KATIE FITZPATRICK

Staff writer

Police have identified the man who jumped April 9 from the top of the 140-foot Gov. Thomas Johnson Memorial Bridge.

The body of James Franklin McNatt, 63, of St. Leonard was found at 11:27 a.m. Friday, July 19, in the water near the Navy Recreation Center in Solomons by a tugboat operator, said Capt. Steve Jones of the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office. The Solomons Volunteer Rescue Squad and Fire Department and the Department of Natural Resources assisted with the investigation, Jones said.

McNatt’s body was sent to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for an autopsy, Jones said.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, McNatt was driving a gold Toyota Camry south when he stopped his vehicle on the highest point of the bridge before getting out, walking around to the front of the car and “throw[ing] himself” over the wall of the jersey barrier, Jones said in original reports.

Witnesses told police they saw a body in the water, and rescue watercraft from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Solomons and St. Leonard volunteer fire departments, the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office and rescue squads from both St. Mary’s and Charles counties searched the Patuxent River “well past the hour of darkness” trying to find McNatt. Maryland State Police helicopters also flew over the area, Jones said, but “all search efforts yielded negative results.”

Rescue divers were not called to the scene at that time because “it’s just too dangerous to dive” at night in the Patuxent “in those conditions,” Jones said in original reports.

Officials closed the bridge between Solomons and St. Mary’s after the incident happened, and an alert was sent out at 7:27 p.m. stating that the bridge was reopened.

Since the bridge opened in December 1977, 14 people have jumped off the bridge and died, including McNatt’s apparent suicide, and five have jumped and survived, according to Southern Maryland Newspapers accounts.

kfitzpatrick@somdnews.com