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Man in car crash who jumped off Ocean City bridge to save 2-year-old describes rescue

A child was thrown from a car during a crash on the Route 90 bridge in Ocean City. Courtesy/Ocean City Fire Department
A child was thrown from a car during a crash on the Route 90 bridge in Ocean City. Courtesy/Ocean City Fire Department

A 2-year-old girl was thrown from a vehicle into the Assawoman Bay during a five-vehicle crash Sunday afternoon.

She was rescued by Jonathan Bauer, who was driving one of the vehicles snarled in the crash on the Route 90 in Ocean City. Bauer spoke publicly for the first time Friday.

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During a news conference with Ocean City officials, firefighters, police officers and paramedics, Bauer thanked those who responded as he described the emergency.

“The first thing I remember is hearing tires screech,” he told reporters. On his way home from Atlantic Tackle with his 13-year-old daughter, Ava, in the passenger seat, Bauer watched as a pickup truck seemed to lose control before it spun and hit a concrete barrier and flipped over a guardrail.

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The truck hit a BMW, he said, propelling it toward his vehicle as he swerved to dodge it. He got out of his car to check on the driver of the BMW after she crashed into the vehicle directly behind Bauer’s.

This photo provided by the Ocean City Fire Department shows the wreckage from a car accident on the Route 90 bridge in Ocean City, Md., on Sunday, May 2, 2021. A bystander jumped over a highway guard rail and into a Maryland bay to rescue a child who had been thrown from a car and into the water during the crash, according to authorities. The child was ejected from a car on the Route 90 bridge in Ocean City and landed in the Assawoman Bay, the Ocean City Fire Department said in a statement. At least eight people were injured in total, the agency said. (Ocean City Fire Department via AP)
This photo provided by the Ocean City Fire Department shows the wreckage from a car accident on the Route 90 bridge in Ocean City, Md., on Sunday, May 2, 2021. A bystander jumped over a highway guard rail and into a Maryland bay to rescue a child who had been thrown from a car and into the water during the crash, according to authorities. The child was ejected from a car on the Route 90 bridge in Ocean City and landed in the Assawoman Bay, the Ocean City Fire Department said in a statement. At least eight people were injured in total, the agency said. (Ocean City Fire Department via AP) (AP)

He then ran over to help a man trying to get out of the truck where it had flipped over the railing and was hanging off the side of the bridge, he said. When the man was freed, Bauer said, he didn’t say much, only pointing to the water toward a car seat and a little girl in a pink dress floating on her back, kicking, before she rolled over and was face-down in the water.

Bauer threw his legs over the side of the bridge “and just looked over at my daughter and said, ‘Grab the first firefighter or police officer you see,’ ” he said. “And then pushed off.”

Within seconds of securing the girl and patting her back, she began spitting up “a bunch of water, a lot of water,” he said. Authorities began arriving on the bridge, preparing to help Bauer and the toddler he was holding.

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Speaking during the news conference, Ava remembered looking down at him from the bridge and asking “‘How are you gonna get out of the water?’ He said, ‘That’s a good question,’ and started laughing,” she said.

Still, she added tearfully, it was “the scariest part of my life, seeing my dad jump off the bridge.”

Bauer was picked up by boat by Joe Oertel and his 14-year-old daughter, Alayna.

Joe Oertel said he was surprised Bauer wasn’t hurt since the water is only a few feet deep in the area where he jumped in.

“He was jumping into the unknown as well, you know, he just saw a baby and went. That’s remarkable. That’s a hero there,” Oertel said. He says the rescuer was in “tremendous shock.”

Once the pair was onboard, the Oertels rushed them to paramedics onshore.

“The little girl did not say anything, but she was coughing and she was crying, so that was a good sign,” Alayna Oertel said.

The girl was flown to a Baltimore hospital, and an additional seven people were treated at hospitals and released.

“This is a day of thank you’s,” said Ocean City Mayor Richard Meehan, who sat beside the Bauers during the news conference. He thanked Bauer for his “heroic actions.”

“At the end of the story, everybody is OK. And they’re OK because of everybody in this room,” he said.

The crash was still under investigation earlier in the week, but city officials said police have ruled out alcohol as a factor.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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