NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Search crews found the body of a Metro Nashville police officer who slipped into a bitterly cold Cumberland River while trying to rescue a woman, Tennessee officials said Thursday morning.
The Metro Nashville Police Department confirmed “with heavy hearts” in a tweet around 8 a.m. that a fire department diver found the body of 44-year-old Eric Mumaw. Police said Mumaw was an 18-year veteran of the department, “who gave his life this morning in service to Nashville.”
Nashville Mayor Megan Berry said in a statement that “our worst fears were realized” with the tragic death of Mumaw, who gave his life to help a woman in distress.
“Officer Mumaw dedicated his life to the safety and protection of us all, and today he gave his life to that calling. My thoughts and prayers are with Officer Mumaw’s family and friends and all of our Metro Nashville police officers today,” she said.
Metro Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said during a news conference earlier Thursday that two officers were responding about 4:30 a.m. Thursday to a call about a 40-year-old woman who relatives said was contemplating suicide. He said they found the woman in a car on the boat ramp near the water’s edge. Aaron said it appeared that she was about to get out of the car to go with officers when the vehicle went into gear and rolled down the ramp, which ended abruptly under the water.
“The two officers as the car was rolling tried to make heroic efforts to save the woman who was in the vehicle,” Aaron said, but both officers slipped into the river. One was able to get back to the bank. Aaron said that officer tried to grab the other officer but was unsuccessful.
“We need the thoughts and prayers of the city for this police officer,” Aaron said.
He said crews found the woman from the car about an hour later on the riverbank and she was taken to a hospital for treatment.
Metro Nashville Fire Department spokesman Brian Haas said river conditions were brutal, with a fast current on top of cold temperatures.
“It’s extremely dangerous for anybody to be in that kind of a situation,” he said.