NEWARK, N.J. — Investigators are continuing to search Thursday for a man accused of jumping into the Passaic River before swimming across and entering a storm drain in order to avoid capture the previous day.
The multi-agency search began around 1 p.m. Wednesday after the unidentified man bailed during a vehicle stop.
Harrison Police stopped Keith Jean, 31, out of suspicion. Jean and Arbrey Tucker, 29, of Bloomfield had allegedly been casing a parking lot near the intersection of Second Street and Cleveland Avenue where there have been a number of car burglaries.
Police stopped the men and arrested Tucker, who had no license and had warrants out for his arrest in Newark.
While police were interviewing Jean, he allegedly fled and jumped into the Passaic River. Police say he yelled out to them that he refused to go back to jail.
After jumping into the river, which divides Harrison County and nearby Newark, Jean allegedly swam across, climbed onto a support on the Bridge Street Bridge, then re-entered the river and swam to a storm drain that he then walked into.
“When he spotted the rescue boats he started to swim into the middle towards the Newark side,” said Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose. "He held onto a piling. He then went into a sewer basin. That was the last time he was seen.”
The sewer tube stands 8 feet tall and leads to a maze of sewer lines that extend for miles throughout the city of Newark. But when the tide comes in, water can rise right to the ceiling.
Investigators say it is possible the man was able to get out, but water can rise to the top of the sewer at high tide, which did occur overnight and into Thursday.
Newark police were contacted on Wednesday to aid in the search effort, and a camera robot was sent into the sewer by the City of Newark’s Department of Public Safety and Passaic Valley Sewer Commission. Fire officials are also aiding.
Due to nightfall, the search was suspended overnight and resumed in the morning.
“He must of did something wrong to risk his life like that,” said one onlooker, Thomas Stevens.
The sewer Jean ran into runs beneath Division Street near Broad Street before branching off. That’s where rescuers focused their search yesterday and today, by lowering cameras down to have a look around. No one was found.
“I give it 50-50. I mean they haven’t found a body,” said Stevens.
Harrison Police said Jean is a wanted man in two other jurisdictions. The investigation by them and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office is ongoing.
The Newark Fire Department is still searching sewers and has a boat out looking for him on the Passaic River.
"Today we believe it sadly may be a recovery effort,” said Ambrose.