A Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer helped rescue a man Saturday morning who had jumped into the Detroit River from the MacArthur Bridge at Belle Isle Park in an attempt to take his own life.

At about 10:44AM Saturday, October 15, conservation officer Richard Cardenas received dispatch information on a possible suicidal subject, who was driving a black Chrysler Town and Country van, and reportedly was planning to jump off the MacArthur Bridge.

The 49-year-old Detroit man’s mother had called 9-1-1 after he called her on the telephone, telling her he had “relapsed on drugs; he loved her; but could not do it anymore.”

Cardenas – a conservation officer from the DNR’s Plainwell Customer Service Center who has worked for the department since January 2014 – arrived at the MacArthur Bridge approximately 1 minute after receiving the emergency dispatch information.

He saw a van matching the dispatch description heading north on the bridge, leaving Belle Isle.

“The vehicle turned around at Jefferson Avenue and headed back south across the MacArthur Bridge,” Cardenas said. “The van stopped approximately in the middle of the bridge.”

A man wearing a dark hooded sweater and dark pants got out of the van, closed the door on the vehicle, and climbed over two railings to get on the outside edge of the bridge.

The distraught man was now on the west edge of the bridge, facing the river. He paused for about 2 seconds before jumping into the Detroit River.

The MacArthur Bridge spans 2,356 feet, with a roughly 30-foot drop to the water.

“I pulled up behind the van and exited my patrol unit, jumped over the first railing and saw (the man) struggling to stay afloat,” Cardenas said. “I encouraged him to keep kicking and swimming.”

The man yelled, “Help!”

He was about 150 feet from shore.

Cardenas retrieved a ResQ Disc from his vehicle, which is a Frisbee-type disc with a rope attached, thrown to victims in water and ice rescue attempts. A person grabbing the floating disc can be pulled to safety with their head out of the water.

Cardenas threw the disc toward the man and told him to grab the rope. He did, but he started to sink beneath the aqua-colored water.

“I pulled the rope tight and pulled the man’s head above the water,” Cardenas said. “I immediately instructed him to spin and wrap the rope around his chest.”

The man was able to do this.

“I then held him such that he could hold his head above water,” Cardenas said. “He was in the water for approximately 10-12 minutes.”

Detroit Police Department Sgt. Michael Carpenter had heard the emergency dispatch and responded in a Detroit harbormaster boat, which arrived at the scene at about 10:55AM.

“He was holding on to a throw rope from the roadway of the bridge,” Carpenter said. “He appeared to be in distress and was having trouble keeping his head above the water.

“I pulled up to him in Boat 7, removed the dive door on the side of the vessel and pulled him into the boat,” Carpenter said.

The man was taken to the Detroit harbormaster’s station where he appeared cold, but responsive, Cardenas said.

The man received treatment from EMS personnel and was taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital at 11:05AM. At the medical facility, Cardenas talked with the man who provided identification information.

The man was admitted to the hospital and was expected to make a full recovery.

Cardenas is assigned to patrol Barry County in the DNR Law Enforcement Division’s District 7, supervised by Lt. Gerald Thayer.

“Cardenas was on a Belle Isle shift when this event took place. He is a very hard working officer and we are very happy with his performance,” Thayer said. “He is always proactive in getting a job done, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that he responded to this incident in a timely manner and immediately deployed the ResQ Disc to save a life.”