Search continues for missing painter who fell from the Ambassador Bridge

DETROIT (WXYZ) - A 27-year-old painter who fell 152-feet from the Ambassador Bridge into the Detroit River remains missing. The Coast Guard suspended their search, but Detroit Police along with other agencies continue to try to locate the man.

The Coast Guard suspended their search last night after hours of trying to locate the man. They have now handed the search over to Detroit Police.

"The decision to suspend an active search and rescue case is the most difficult decision that our operators face," said Chief Petty Officer Gabriel Settel, command center supervisor, Coast Guard Sector Detroit.   "Our thoughts go out to Mr. Morton's family and friends during this incredibly difficult time."

The Coast Guard was aided in its search by Michigan State Police, Detroit Police, Border Patrol and Homeland Security.

Kent Morton, 27, was on the bridge with coworkers from Seaway Painting based in Livonia Wednesday afternoon when the accident happened.  Authorities haven't said exactly how Morton fell, but a section of what appears to be the bridge's undercarriage was dangling near the area where witnesses say Morton plunged into the water.

Neither Ambassador Bridge officials nor Seaway Painting could tell us whether Morton was tethered to the bridge or if he was taking other safety precautions.

Family and friends are devastated.

"We're going to do our best to try and keep his house that he just got with his new girlfriend who is pregnant as well. We're going to try and do our best to come up with money and help salvage his home, so his daughter can stay in the home," said Shane Morton, Kent's brother.

On Wednesday, The Detroit International Bridge Company released the following statement about the incident:

This afternoon, a painter working for a contractor of the Bridge Company fell from the Ambassador Bridge.  Our first concern is for the health and welfare of the man who fell. Our prayers are with him and we hope for a positive outcome to this incident.

We know the risk involved in this kind of work and that our contractors abide by the highest safety standards.

We don't have any details on how this occurred.  We'll know more after a thorough investigation.

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Officials tell 7 Action News that the temperature of the water below was 37° on Wednesday afternoon.

More than a decade ago, in November 2000, scaffolding collapsed while ten painters were working on the bridge. Boats were able to rescue two workers who fell into the river in that incident, but 27-year-old Jamie Barker went missing and was later found dead. All of the other painters were saved by harnesses that left them dangling over the river for an hour.

Scaffolding collapsed again in June of 2001. At that time, no workers were injured, but employers were fined for worker safety violations that again left a worker dangling from the Ambassador Bridge.

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