Teenager who fell off Lee Bridge and died, loved life

Posted at 12:11 AM, Nov 20, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-20 12:15:19-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--Virgil Reid McGarity Jr. was just 18, a recent graduate of Deep Run High School, a competitive diver, and, his friends say, a person who loved adventure.

Richmond police said he was jumping the gap between the northbound lanes of the Lee Bridge and the southbound lanes Saturday night when he fell to his death at about 10:30 Saturday night.

He and a friend attempted the daredevil jump – the friend made it, his friends said.

A police source said, at this point, alcohol does not appear to have played a role.

The Lee Bridge is actually two bridges, separated by the thinnest expansion joint on the southern end and separating by 10 feet or so on the northern end.

The gap is guarded by a four-foot jersey wall. Five years ago, a VCU senior fell to his death near the same spot. It’s about a 45-foot drop to the well-used footbridge suspended from the bridges leading from Tredegar Street to Belle Island.

That’s where rescuers found McGarity.

His friends said the jump was in perfect character for the young man who was always up for action, who absolutely loved the water and particularly the James.

“He definitely would,” said longtime friend Chris George. “Wow. He got in trouble for it sometimes. He was very, very adventurous.”

George and other young friends gathered on the footbridge Monday, remembering McGarity with love, tears and laughter.

McGarity had a golden personality, with rare warmth, his friends said, sort of like the character Ponyboy in the book, “The Outsiders.”

“He had a smile that never left his face,” said friend Channing Rives. “And if it left his face, he was doing his puppy dog eyes.”

“He always knew how to make me happy,” said another close friend, Erin Mahoney. “He always knew how to make everyone happy.”

“He made you feel so important,” said Rebecca George, McGarity’s best friend’s sister. “It was his smile and his energy.”

And McGarity, they said, was totally un-selfconscious, always willing to stroll around in his Speedo swimsuit.

“He looked good in a Speedo,” Rebecca George said as the others agreed and laughed. “I think he would like if I said that.”

Yes, there were tears, but also much laughter as a golden sunset graced the James River late Monday afternoon.

“As horrible as it’s been,” Chris George said, “we’ve had some of the greatest times just in these past two days, just remembering his life and everything he did.”