Eighteen-Year-Old Charged After Pushing Friend Off Bridge To “Help Her” . . . Resulting In Multiple Broken Bones



imagesThere is an interesting case in Washington state where Taylor Smith, 18, is facing a charge of reckless endangerment after she pushed 16-year-old Jordan Holgerson off a bridge.  Holgerson was contemplating the 60-foot plunge and hesitated. Smith insists that she was just trying to help her make the decision — both Holgerson would end up in a belly flop that left her with multiple injuries.  A conviction for the gross misdemeanor can result in as much as a year in jail and a maximum fine of $5,000.

As you can see in the video below, the push was unexpected and uninvited.  This led the prosecutors to conclude that “it is clear that Taylor Smith engaged in conduct which created a substantial risk of death and resulted in serious physical injury to Jordan Holgerson.”

Smith was identified by Holgerson and insisted that she is a friend who simply wanted to help her overcome her fears.

That raises an interesting defense.  There is no evidence of a malicious intent or desire to injure Smith.  However, that may not matter.

The crime is oddly defined in Washington state with specific reference to a drive by shooting charge:

RCW 9A.36.050 Reckless endangerment.

(1) A person is guilty of reckless endangerment when he or she recklessly engages in conduct not amounting to drive-by shooting but that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person.
(2) Reckless endangerment is a gross misdemeanor.
It certainly does seem to fit pushing someone off a bridge. However, Holgerson was preparing to do precisely that and Smith may not have believed that she would be physically hurt.  Nevertheless, she was harmed with five broken ribs and lung injury. Smith said that she has apologized repeatedly and tried to visit Holgerson but was turned away.
This is a tough case given the lack of malicious intent.  Do you feel Smith should be convicted?

40 thoughts on “Eighteen-Year-Old Charged After Pushing Friend Off Bridge To “Help Her” . . . Resulting In Multiple Broken Bones”

  1. The law be damned (or changed); Smith made a decision that was morally not hers to make. There’s an old saying, “The right for you to swing your fist ends at the other persons nose.” Perhaps there is no criminal case here, due to legal intricacies, but a civil action would seem most appropriate.

  2. The girl changed her mind and clearly stated she no longer wanted to jump. Yes, there should be prosecution brought.

  3. Anyone recall the Chain of Rocks Bridge Case out of St. Louis? In 1991 three bad dudes came onto the Bridge and assaulted Tom and his two cousins. They raped the two girls and then threw all three people off the bridge. The two girls died. The three perps got convicted of rape and first degree murder. At least one got executed. One is now fighting his conviction seeking a new trial. You can find this on-line. Ugly.

  4. This is a tough case given the lack of malicious intent. Do you feel Smith should be convicted?

    That’s interesting the way you worded the question. You make the statement regarding the lack of intent, and then go to the question of being convicted. Obviously Turley believes intent is not an element in determining to refer the case for prosecution.

    So a knucklehead teenager was considered to have had no intent, but exposed the individual to great harm, and the question is. Should she be convicted? A knucklehead adult was considered to have had no intent, but she exposed our nation to great harm, and the question is should we refer for prosecution?

    Yeah, one law for me and another for thee. Got it.

  5. Taylor Smith should be charged. Looks pretty straightforward to me. The fear and the reluctance in Jordan Holgerson, if not the refusal to jump, are evident.

  6. I live very close to where this happened & have been to this spot many times. Many people have been injured jumping off this bridge voluntary! As painful as this was to watch, people have to be responsible for their actions. I love going here & now they are talking about closing it off to EVERYONE which angers me, there is a nice area to float in & has some good swimming holes down below. It is one of the many beautiful spots I have come to love & appreciate here in the Pacific Northwest.
    I never realized how lucky I was to live in a place where I could drive 10 minutes to waterfalls with a tube & float on a river on summer days. Many people do not get to experience this. I have seen many rude & ignorant comment about us being rednecks up here. I grew up in a Big City & moved here 14 years ago, I only wish I grew up here! I would rather swim in places like this than in a boring swimming pool ANYDAY. The nature & beauty of the Pacific NorthWest is like no other.
    However because of the actions of ALL these kids, now they are considering taking it all away. That girl should have NEVER pushed her. Personally I wouldn’t have been up there. I have Lupus/MS so those risk taking days are over for me. However when I was younger NONE of my friends would have pushed me or anyone, we wouldn’t have been there.
    One of my biggest frustrations today with kids is they are never forced to take accountability for their actions, parents & adults make excuses such as “well they are kids” or “Kids will be Kids”, Or “You can’t expect them to understand the consequences”. My response to ALL of those is STOP! When I was a teenager, my parents taught me right from wrong & if I did something wrong I WAS HELD ACCOUNTABLE! So that is why they ALL should be in trouble. I am sorry that girl got hurt, but they shouldn’t have been up there. There are SIGNS EVERYWHERE! The girl that pushed here was wrong to do so, but they are ALL accountable. THE REST OF US SHOULD NOT HAVE to pay for their stupidity!
    Also they should put a fence up around the bridge now & FINE PEOPLE for jumping.


    Common sense suggests that unless that river is 60 feet deep, a 60 foot plunge will be unsafe. And common sense seems to be giving Holgerson pause. Her better judgement is telling her ‘not’ to jump.

    Therefore Smith is wantonly presumptuous for pushing Holgerson. Because she was pushed, Holgerson goes down at the worst possible angle for a devastating belly flop. Whatever her intent, Smith displayed gross negligence that goes beyond adolescent horseplay.

  8. If convicted, she should be pushed off the same bridge. Rescue folks should wait below to save her from drowning.

  9. When the professor asks whether Smith “should be convicted”, he is really asking two questions. First, he is asking whether Smith’s conduct is proscribed by the statute. Second, he is asking whether it is right to prohibit such conduct without intent to injure.

    The answer to the first question is, in my opinion and, apparently that of the professor, is “yes”. Pushing someone off a 60 high bridge clearly creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury.

    The answer to the second question is more complex. Criminal statutes often proscribe conduct resulting in injury unaccompanied by an intent to injure. Consider vehicular homicide. A speeding drunk driver runs over a pedestrian in a crosswalk causing injury. The drunk driver did not intend to injure the pedestrian, but no one would doubt that the drunk driver should be criminally charged. However, predicating liability on something less than criminal intent blurs the distinction between civil and criminal liability. Suppose the drunk, before he gets to his car, accidentally staggers into a person on crutches, knocking the person over, causing injury. Civil liability for damages to the victim, yes, but criminal charges, I think not.

  10. Reckless endangerment. At 18 old enough to vote.

    Up to the jury. And the judge for whatever sentence she deserves.

    1. Well I guess even just ole redneck songs are banned by the ChiCom Commie/Nazis, Apple, GOOG. FB, TWTR, etc…, want to be West Coast Shiiit Tech Turds… LOL. We’re working on your number AmericanHatin Scum. Your range is coming up in 3,2,1… tag you’re it. I’m thinkin.

  11. We all know that person, who eggs you on to do something dangerous, pushes you, in this case literally, when you say no. Those are not true friends. Their interference contributes to hospital stays, incarcerations, and funeral homes.

    If I was the victim’s family, I would be howling mad at Smith. Not only did she shove Holgerson off a 60 foot bridge but she did so in such a way that the poor girl came down in belly flop position. She fell mostly face first, and it is only by the grace of God that she was not killed or paralyzed. As it is, she may have lasting injuries, such as disc damage, from that kind of trauma. She punctured a lung, and scarred lung tissue does not function.

    It doesn’t matter that Holgerson was planning to (foolishly) jump off a 60 foot bridge. She changed her mind. This is kind of like someone saying he wants to play Russian roulette, coming to his senses, but his “friend” pulls the trigger for him with the gun pointed at his face and it goes off.

    In addition, local authorities have said that they get serious injuries from people jumping off that bridge every year.

    At the very least, Smith should pay all of Holgerson’s medical fees, including those that may come up in the future for her reckless act.

    People do stupid things, often without intent of malice. Shoving someone off a 60 foot bridge so she belly flopped and ended up in the hospital is one of those mistakes that haunt people. It could have been so much worse. She’s likely lost a friend, a boatload of money, and may end up in jail for a prank. Because there was no malice, I would think fine and restitution to the victim. She cannot repay her for her medical bills and damages, if she’s behind bars not working. She owes Holgerson a lot.

  12. A couple of comments on the elements of the crime alleged.

    The reason for the exclusion of Drive-By Shooting is this crime is codified in RCW 9A.36.045 Drive-by Shooting which is a Class B Felony, whereas Reckless Endangerment is a Gross Misdemeanor.

    It is common in Washington’s revised codes to specifically name exclusions where a specific act or omission constitutes a greater penalty. One of the reasons is the defendant cannot claim that his or her actions make them criminally liable for a lesser included offense, since the elements would be the same as what was alleged by their accusers.

    For the purposes of the Drive-by Shooting code, such an act would fit the definition of Reckless Endangerment. The legislature sought to specifically proscribe the drive by act as having a greater penalty.

    Over the past two decades the courts in the state came to scrutinize cases, requiring that all elements of an alleged offense be proven by the state and the issue of legislative intent is of greater importance.

    Second, the Reckless Endangerment statute does not have an Intent element or a malicious action mandate. “recklessly engages” is the essential criminal liability requirement for a charge.

    Under RCW 9A.08.010 General Requirements of Culpability:

    (1) Kinds of Culpability Defined.

    (a) INTENT. A person acts with intent or intentionally when he or she acts with the objective or purpose to accomplish a result which constitutes a crime.

    (b) KNOWLEDGE. A person knows or acts knowingly or with knowledge when:

    (i) he or she is aware of a fact, facts, or circumstances or result described by a statute defining an offense; or

    (ii) he or she has information which would lead a reasonable person in the same situation to believe that facts exist which facts are described by a statute defining an offense.

    (c) RECKLESSNESS. A person is reckless or acts recklessly when he or she knows of and disregards a substantial risk that a wrongful act may occur and his or her disregard of such substantial risk is a gross deviation from conduct that a reasonable person would exercise in the same situation.

    (d) CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE. A person is criminally negligent or acts with criminal negligence when he or she fails to be aware of a substantial risk that a wrongful act may occur and his or her failure to be aware of such substantial risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the same situation.


    Under part c, the Reckless element is defined. There Intent element, though not required under Reckless Endangerment, will not be satisfied because the suspect in this case did not by any evidence I have seen intend for the victim to suffer criminal damage or harm.

    The problem with this case is, as our host mentions, the victim was engaging in action where she expected to jump from the bridge, as others were doing, on her own accord. It was the unexpected shove from the accused that resulted in the injury.

    And therein lies the weakness of the case. According to Part c was the conduct a “gross deviation from the standard of care…” when others were jumping from the bridge unharmed? I don’t believe the state will prevail on this assertion, in the end that is.

    If anything a better inchoate act would be using the Criminal Negligence standard. However, as I mentioned before, the Reckless Endangerment statute requires the state prove Recklessness and if it can only prove negligence then a prosecution cannot be successful, especially given the common law.

    If the defense does not succeed in a Knapstad Motion (Washington’s criminal procedure analogue to a civil summary judgment motion). I suspect the Courts of Appeal will toss out the matter since the state will not be able to prove Recklessness.

    1. Darren; I do not believe that whether others were jumping is relevant. Swimming is a very individual activity. The others may have been strong swimmers and confident in their abilities. Or they may have been fools. Either way, it should be up to the individual whether to jump 60 feet into the river. Clearly this girl was hesitant. While the older girl may have been trying to “help,” or engaging in horseplay, or acting with disguised malice doesn’t really matter. She committed a dangerous act resulting in serious injury. I would charge her, as punishment for her actions as well as a warning to others.

    2. Darren:

      Does it change anything that officials stated that people get seriously injured jumping off that bridge every year, and that they have posted “No Jumping” signs?

      I was thinking that Holgerson came to her senses while Smith was determined to make her do something marked as dangerous.

      1. https://q13fox.com/2018/08/10/clark-county-washington-teen-pushed-off-bridge-i-could-have-died-easily/

        “A day after Holgerson was pushed, FOX 12 found people still jumping off the bridge. Some said they even came there because of the viral video showing what happened.

        There’s a sign on the bridge warning people not to jump or dive.

        Firefighters say it’s an ongoing issue at the park. They say they’ve responded to four cases already this summer, which is a new record.”

        Does this meet the requirements for recklessness or is it still criminal negligence?

        1. Karen S – 18-year-olds in swimsuits are idiots!!!! I am sure the defense will bring all this up at trial. And I would sure ask for a jury trial.

        2. In my view the case hinges on whether the act was one of recklessness or negligence. Washington does not have a statute for Negligent Endangerment. The element that must be proven is that the act committed by the accused is reckless. If the state cannot prove recklessness, even if negligence is provable, then the courts require the charge be dismissed.

          In this case the only act in question is whether or not the shove was a reckless act. If the victim or her cohorts were jumping from the bridge it’s hard to prove that a shove was in itself reckless.

      2. The sign posting does give evidence favorable to the state, especially the “reasonable person” clause. But it is not absolute.

  13. You have to take into account the age of the defendant. What would the average defendant at that age do? Then is it reckless endangerment?

  14. When push comes to shove, teenagers need to take responsibility for their actions.
    I would fine her, but no jail time….

    1. Also, the Holgersons will want Miss Smith to pay doctor’s bills, I’m sure.
      Both families will be affected by this for years. What a shame….and a mess.

        1. Oky1. I hope so………just don’t know how long the lung injury will be a problem……and how long emotional scars will last.

          1. Cindy,

            I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life & have paid the price or have reaped the reward>

            As a teenager , 14,15? I got stupid one day like this young gal that pushed the other off the edge.

            Yes, I screwed up that day , but it built an unbreakable bond. IT worked out great,but it could have turned out horrible bad just the same.

    2. Cindy Bragg – since that girl’s brain does not become fully adult until 23 or so, do we treat her as an adult or a fun-loving 18-year-old in a swimsuit?

      1. Paul C….”….brain does not become fully adult until 23 or so”…..You’re being too kind…LOL
        seriously, the big problem for her, in my opinion, is that Do Not Jump From Bridge signs were posted. Now, granted, the signs did NOT read: Do Not Push Anyone, Even Your BFF from the Bridge.. Assuming Miss Smith can read, she knew that the authorities did not/do not want people jumping into the water from the bridge. Miss Holgerson knew it, too.
        As far as being 18…….The summer of 1965, which was the summer of my 18th year, I was in Paris, in a symphony, recording for Radio Free Europe. It never occurred to me, as I walked along the Seine, to push someone off the Pont Neuf. 🙂

        1. Cindy Bragg – when I was 14, I had an 18-year-old hold me upside down out a two-story window by one foot and then play catch the foot. This was a Benedictine monastery. As I said, 18-year-olds are idiots!!!

          1. Oh my god! You must have been terrified! That kid gave idiots a bad name.

            1. Cindy Bragg – I had a fear of heights for a long time after that. 😉

  15. By keeping the diving water warm, the surface is a bit more forgiving. When diving off of 10meter platform, a diver hits the water at nearly 35miles per hour! Now that is an impact! A free-falling diver accelerates at 32 feet per second per second to the water.Aug 7, 2012
    Olympic Diving Physics — FromTheLabBench

    (33 feet is 10 meters)

    At sixty impact is 28 feet later, less than one additional second assuming terminal velocity.

    acceleration is 9.8 meters per second. no amount of googling came up with the answer to the simple question what is the speed at impact at 60′ but adding 28/32nds of a second or 14/16 or 7/8ths of 35 mph

    It was no where near terminal acceleration to terminal velocity

    Trying to assimilate the answer to what should be a straight forward formulae
    (Speed of impact from 60′ fall) and an unusual amount of time researching such a formulae led to this concusion.

    Ask in metric.

  16. The action of pushing resulting in her landing in an unstable position (belly flop) instead of a stable position (feet first). The fact she may have intended still to jump (which almost always had resulted in a safe landing), should not take away the fact she was pushed. Prosecution is fair.

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Res ipsa loquitur – The thing itself speaks
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