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Suspect appears in court after bridge jumping incident

By Scott Zoltan, KECI Reporter, szoltan@keci.com
Published On: Jul 14 2014 08:46:18 PM MDT
Updated On: Jul 14 2014 08:58:52 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

A man charged with misdemeanor negligent endangerment for allegedly jumping off the Bandmann Bridge in East Missoula and landing on a person appeared in Missoula Justice Court on Monday.

County prosecutors say Charles David Ament landed on and injured a person on Saturday night. According to court records, the victim was treated for concussion and a serious head wound.

Ament's bail was set at $5,000.

A similar incident happened last July. Prosecutors charged and convicted Corey Allen Hewitt of misdemeanor negligent endangerment after he jumped off the same bridge, and seriously injured a man floating beneath the bridge.

He was recently sentenced, and was ordered to pay more than $20,000 in restitution and perform 100 hours of community service.

Meanwhile, some river-goers are calling for an end to what they call reckless behavior.

Keith Glaes has lived in the Missoula area for more than 40 years, and has seen jumpers leaping off the bridge that whole time.

He says he would support increasing the charge in similar incidents to a felony.

"There's plenty of signs. I mean, these people know they can't do that. There's signs everywhere...you're going off a bridge, you're knowingly jumping off a bridge that you shouldn't be jumping off of...and then you land on somebody and they're always badly injured,” said Glaes.

Bill Ballinger says authorities could do more outreach to educate the public on the dangers of bridge-jumping.

"The more outreach, the better, because floating rivers is something Missoulians and Montanans have been doing since there's been Missoula and there's been Montana," said Ballinger.  

Other river-goers were similarly troubled to hear of another bridge jumping injury.

"It makes me not really want to float the river because I'm afraid I'm going to get hit," said Steven Hall.

"It's just scary when people are out here wanting to have a fun time, that they have to watch out for scary stuff like that," said Brad Plant.

NBC Montana spoke with county deputies and prosecutors about the punishments associated with bridge jumping. Prosecutors tell NBC Montana that they're able to use general criminal statutes to bring charges like endangerment.

Deputies  are able to point to county ordinances when handing out citations. Deputies tell NBC Montana they check the bridge regularly and hand out citations to jumpers.