Wed | Feb 8, 2023

Jaws bridge jumping a rite of passage, says Martha’s Vineyard resident

Published:Tuesday | August 23, 2022 | 12:09 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer
Dr Vanessa Alleyne
Dr Vanessa Alleyne

Growing up at Martha’s Vineyard, jumping off the Jaws bridge is a rite of passage for many youngsters during the summer months.

So says Dr Vanessa Alleyne, who grew up on the island.

“Growing up in Martha’s Vineyard, it was a rite of passage to jump off the bridge. I did it a number of times in my youth,” she told The Gleaner.

Alleyne said that it was thrill-seeking to jump off the bridge.

“Kids have been jumping off the bridge even before it became known as the Jaws bridge because of the movie,” she said.

Alleyne said that she once got in trouble in the waters under the bridge while riding in a tube, and had to be rescued by friends.

“We never jumped at night. Visibility is not good at that time and it is just something we never did,” Alleyne told The Gleaner.

Two Jamaican brothers, Tavaughn Bulgin and Tavaris Bulgin, died two Sundays ago when they, along with seven others, went to the bridge after finishing work at Nomans restaurant where they were seasonal employees.

Four persons, including the brothers, jumped from the bridge into the water below. Two were recovered uninjured but both brothers died.

Both bodies have been recovered and the authorities in Massachusetts are conducting DNA testing to conclusively identify the bodies. It is understood that, when the DNA results are provided later this week, the bodies will be released to parents Keith and Jacqueline Bulgin, who are currently in Martha’s Vineyard.

Arrangements are being fine-tuned for the bodies to be transported to Jamaica.

Meanwhile, a candlelight vigil will be held at the jump site at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Jamaican community in Massachusetts has rallied to the aid of the family, The Gleaner understands.

A GoFundMe account established for the family has so far raised more than US$200,000.

Alleyne said that the deaths of the Bulgin brothers were the first at the site in recent memory.

“Growing up on the island, there was not much to do during the summer. So jumping off the bridge, as well as diving for coins thrown into the waters by passengers on the ferry, were fun things to do,” Alleyne told The Gleaner.

“People driving across the bridge had to go slowly because of the cluster of kids gathered and jumping off.”

Alleyne said that pleasure seekers would jump, go rest on the sand, and return for a splash.

She said that the experience can be scary at first but jumpers wooed by friends yield to the desire of not wanting to be left out.

“It was something you just do,” she said.

The drowning of the brothers has prompted discussion on bridge safety and how to enforce the no-jumping rule.