WANAQUE, N.J. – A man died after jumping off a highway bridge with his two toddler sons in his arms, yet the boys survived the 100-foot plunge into a wooded area and are expected to make a full recovery.
John Spincken was holding the boys, ages 1 and 3, when he leaped from the Wanaque Bridge on Interstate 287 on Monday night, state police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene; the boys were found nearby, near the Wanaque River, police said.
“When the officers found the children conscious and alert it was nothing short of a miracle, that’s for sure,” Pequannock Township police Capt. Christopher DePuyt said on Tuesday. “If there is a silver lining, it’s that the kids are OK.”
The incident began Monday night with a call from a friend of Spincken’s wife, who said Spincken had taken the toddlers and threatened to harm them. DePuyt says Spincken was tracked through his cellphone and police found his unoccupied car on the bridge.
Spincken apparently climbed on top of his car and then scaled a 12-foot-high fence meant to prevent people from jumping off the bridge, DePuyt said.
Police believe tree branches helped cushion the boys’ fall.
“I was expecting the worst outcome when I arrived at the scene, and I was amazed last night and even this morning on the condition of the children,” DePuyt said.
The boys, whose injuries weren’t disclosed, were hospitalized in fair condition on Tuesday.
Spincken’s actions appear a far cry from the smiling man who, on social media, called fatherhood the “best feeling in the world” and described the panic and then relief that washed over him moments after a health scare threated his younger son’s life.
“You see, we all have good days and bad days but at the end of the day we are BREATHING! Do not take life for granted, you never know when you will take your last breathe,” he wrote.
Spincken’s social media accounts show a polished, loving family.
The 37-year-old, who was from Pequannock, was listed as the owner of an auto detailing company. He listed family, health and cars among his interests on his Instagram account and shared pictures of his young family on Facebook.
A young boy is shown hitting baseballs in one video, and, in another, Spincken holds his son on his lap as they pretend to drive together.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t feel grateful and appreciative,” Spincken wrote in comments on a collage he posted in August of his boys.
Police were trying to gather more information and better understand what may have triggered Spincken, DePuyt said. Investigators had not been contacted by anyone who had previous concerns about Spincken, and township police did not have a history of any contact with the family, which previously lived elsewhere in the state, he said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.