Two toddlers survived a 100-foot fall after their father — possibly holding them in his arms — intentionally jumped off an interstate bridge over a river in northern New Jersey late Monday, state police said.
The father died in the fall from the Interstate 287 overpass near the Wanaque River, in Wanaque, about 25 miles northwest of Manhattan.
“When the officers found the children conscious and alert, it was nothing short of a miracle, that’s for sure,” said Capt. Christopher DePuyt of the Pequannock Township Police Department at a news conference Tuesday.
Trees underneath the bridge near the river apparently cushioned their fall, he explained.
“I, like anybody that’s hearing this story now or last night, if you hear the beginning of the story you’re expecting the worst,” DePuyt said.
The children are being treated for non-life-threatening injuries at a local hospital, and police are asking for any possible witnesses to come forward so they can determine whether the father threw the children off the bridge and then jumped, or if he was holding them when he jumped.
The father was identified as John Spincken, 37, KTLA sister station WPIX in New York City reported. Court records showed he had a history of domestic violence, the station said.
Police called to domestic dispute
The family’s nightmare began when the children’s parents got into a verbal argument inside their home. Suddenly Spincken stormed off with the kids around 7 p.m., threatening to kill the boys, police said, WPIX reported.
The husband took the couple’s 1-year-old and 3-year-old boys in his car, a police statement said.
The GPS signal on the man’s cellphone led them to within 2,000 yards of him, and officers recognized that the bridge was his likely destination, DePuyt said.
“That bridge is a place where suicides have been attempted and committed before,” DePuyt said.
Officers found the empty car on the shoulder of Interstate 287 on the bridge and assumed “something terrible” had happened, DePuyt said. They began searching for the husband and the boys below the bridge.
Police found the two children, injured but conscious, in a wooded area beneath the bridge. They had not only survived the 100-foot drop, but they also missed falling into the river below.
“When the officers found the children conscious and alert — it’s nothing short of a miracle,” DePuty said.
The 1-year-old has a bruised lung and a concussion, while the 3-year-old only has a concussion, police said.
Spincken, found in the same location, was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
Investigators believe the father climbed on top of his car and scaled an 8-foot “suicide prevention fence” with the boys before jumping off the bridge.
It’s not yet clear if he was holding the boys or if he threw them from the bridge, DePuyt said.
No witnesses have come forward.
There was no record of a police response to their residence before, police said. They had lived in the home for the past year.
KTLA’s Melissa Pamer contributed to this article.