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One brother dead, one missing after group jumped off Martha’s Vineyard bridge

Police and rescue workers on scene where one man was found dead and another remains missing after they jumped off a bridge in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard.Ray Ewing/Martha's Vineyard Gazette

EDGARTOWN — One person drowned and his younger brother remained missing after jumping off a popular bridge that was featured in the movie Jaws, authorities said Monday.

The body of Tavaris Bulgin, 26, was recovered around 6:30 Monday morning. Bulgin and his brother Tavaughn Bulgin, 21, jumped off the bridge that connects Edgartown to Oak Bluffs around 11 p.m. Sunday. The younger brother is presumed dead.

The brothers were from Clarendon, Jamaica, and were working at a restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard for the summer, officials said.

“Tragic is an understatement,” said Reverend Rhoan Parkins, a spokesperson for the family. He said the brothers’ father is Reverend Keith Bulgin, the pastor of the Palmers Cross New Testament Church of God in Clarendon. “There’s not just mourning in the family, there’s a community and an entire church congregation in mourning.”


Both parents sought medical care after learning the news, Parkins said. The brothers, the second and third children in the family, had two sisters.

The brothers worked at Nomans restaurant, which was closed Monday because of the drowning, an employee said.

“We are heartbroken,” the employee said.

On a typical summer day at the bridge, dozens of people line up on the ocean side waiting to jump off, despite signs reading “no diving or jumping from bridge” placed prominently at both ends. But Oak Bluffs Fire Chief Nelson Wirtz said the waters can be dangerous, especially for novice swimmers.

“There is a pretty good current, depending on when you’re jumping in,” he said. “The water does run through there very, very fast. For someone who’s a good swimmer, it’s OK. I do not know how well these people swam. Certainly if you’re not a strong swimmer, you’re going to have trouble.”

Wirtz advised the public to exercise caution in the water.

“Have fun, but be careful,” he said. “Wear a lifejacket.”


At 11:20 p.m. Sunday, officials launched a search for four men who jumped off the bridge, said Petty Officer Briana Carter, a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard. Two of the people were “recovered fairly quickly with no injuries,” she said.

The men were all workers on the island, said a State Police officer who asked not to be identified.

Local police and firefighters, joined by State Police, searched for the men through the night, officials said. Divers resumed the search Monday morning.

“We broke off the main search just around noon today, after a few tide changes,” Wirtz said. “Currently the Mass State Police helicopter and Coast Guard cutter are still out there. With the number of tides that have come and gone ... we just have to wait.”

State Police divers and marine units suspended the search at 4:30 p.m. Monday and will return on Tuesday with environmental police officers “to continue to search using side-scan sonar,” according to David Procopio, a spokesman for the State Police.

As state police divers circled the area in a boat, the bridge was unusually quiet.

”We come here every year and we’ve never seen it like this,” said Debbie Gomes, who lives in Rhode Island and is visiting the island with her family.

Around 1 p.m. Monday, after State Police cleared the area, a handful of people began jumping off the bridge again, some doing back flips.

Scott and Stacy Nappi, visiting from New Jersey, said their kids were hoping to jump off the bridge Monday morning but decided against it when they heard the news of the drowning. “We saw the signs and told them no,” Scott Nappi said.


Not everyone was dissuaded. Rene Lopez, 17, was jumping off the bridge Monday afternoon with a group of friends. He said he was “unsettled” by the news of the drowning, but it wasn’t going to stop him from jumping. “It’s still fun,” Lopez said. “I look forward to this every year.”

Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22. Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @brittbowker and on Instagram @brittbowker.