By HEATHER NELLIS
Police officers and emergency responders were involved in a hazardous recovery mission Monday to retrieve the body of a man who reportedly jumped into the Chuctanunda Creek around 9 a.m.
The body was found roughly an hour and a half later, wedged under ice in the area of the creek directly behind Emmy Lou's Diner at Chuctanunda Street.
Fire Chief Richard Liberti said the man jumped into the creek opposite the public safety building at the westbound Route 5 bridge, roughly 200 feet from where he was found.
From the streets above, authorities scoured the ice-crusted waters of the creek, and downstream at the confluence of the Mohawk River.
Then police said a rescuer noticed the man's hand sticking out of the water in the area of the creek behind the diner.
It took just as long to get him out of the water as it did to find him.
The man's arm was pinned between layers of ice, foreshadowing the painstaking task of freeing and recovering the body in the midst of wintry elements, featuring freezing temperatures, and wind chills that approached single digits Monday.
After shimmying down deep below street level to the creek bed, suited firefighters had to enter the freezing water, then carefully pry away the thick ice with an axe before they could recover the body.
The body was lifted out of the creek on a gurney strapped to a fire engine ladder that was lowered to the area. At the scene, police said the body was being transported to St. Mary's Hospital.
Police confirmed that the body pulled from the Chuctanunda was that of 50-year-old Antonio Mera, an Amsterdam resident with family ties to Fulton County.
Liberti could only lift his palms and shake his head when asked if the incident was a suicide; the only thing officials had to go on was a witness account.
"A witness called 911 and said a male did what they described as a swan dive over the overpass," city police officer Sal Megna said.
Both the fire and police departments had extensive manpower looking for the man at the creek, which dips far below streets and major highways before emptying into the Mohawk River.
Of the area under the microscope Monday, the creek snakes through the city's downtown, under Main Street and both eastbound and westbound Route 5.
Much of the area around the creek is fenced off, but it is wide open at the bridges.
Buildings and infrastructure sit atop the creek on cavernous stone archways, which could have made for an even more difficult rescue, had the body not been stopped by the ice. Worse, the body could have made its way to the river.
Prior to locating the body, Liberti said the department was contemplating sending in divers, but safety was a concern. The department had requested an air boat from the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.