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Crews search for man’s body in river

On Friday, about 20 people were searching for the body of a man who jumped off an Idaho Falls bridge.

Dive teams from Bonneville, Jefferson and Bingham county sheriff’s offices, as well as crews from Bonneville County Search and Rescue and the Idaho Falls Fire Department were looking for any sign of Gerald Wilkinson, 76, of Idaho Falls, who jumped off the Pancheri bridge Thursday. The use of high lines across the river has helped the divers in checking the area.

As of 2 p.m. Friday, the body had not been found, Bonneville Sheriff Paul Wilde said. The search was to continue into the late afternoon, at which time the searchers will re-evaluate how they will proceed this weekend.

A witness who saw Wilkinson jump Thursday morning said at first, he thought it was a joke.

Josu Amuchastegui was driving on the Pancheri bridge when he said Wilkinson, who was driving the car in front of him, stopped, blocking the lane of traffic. Wilkinson got out of the car, stepped over the bridge rail and jumped into the Snake River.

“I thought there would be a concrete walkway or something on the side – in Boise there are. But when I saw him going into the water, bobbing up and down, I didn’t think it was a joke,” said Amuchastegui. “I knew it was a real thing.”

Amuchastegui called 911 shortly before 9:15 a.m., and authorities arrived in a few minutes. Onlookers watched him go down the river for about four minutes. Then he disappeared.

After an hour and a half of using boats, jet skis and a helicopter, the rescuers became merely searchers, with their goal being the recovery of Wilkinson’s body.

Wilkinson was last seen wearing blue jeans, a light blue shirt and tennis shoes.

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