River-Plunge Suspect Hospitalized

An Omaha man is hospitalized after driving his car into the Missouri River while police were trying to apprehend him early Tuesday morning. He swam downstream for 30 minutes before he was plucked from the water.

The incident started at 3 a.m. when 49-year-old Mark Cattano drove through a red light at 30th and Ames. A police officer tried to pull him over but he went south in the wrong lanes of the North Freeway and the pursuit was terminated.

An hour later, Cattano called 911 and told police that he would surrender at N.P. Dodge Park. When officers arrived there around 4 a.m., Cattano drove into the river, got out of his vehicle and started swimming.

River rescue crews went after him as he swam from N.P. Dodge Park to the Mormon Bridge.

Omaha Fire Department Battalion Chief Elisa Havranek says, "He proceeded down the river. He swam for quite some time. We had visual. OPD and Omaha Fire had visual on him most of the time."

Police and fire personnel in Eppley's rescue boat finally pulled him out of the river. Havranek says, "He did refuse to get in the boat the whole time until right at the end. It took five to seven minutes to get him in that boat."

With a current that travels approximately seven miles-per-hour, the Missouri River is a treacherous place to try to make a getaway -- especially at night.

Havranek called it a, "very dangerous situation," and said, "he's very lucky to be alive."

Police already believe Cattano had risked his life twice, first going the wrong way on the freeway and then driving into the river.

He was taken to Creighton University Medical Center where he was handcuffed to a bed waiting to be placed in protective custody.

Omaha Police Sergeant Teresa Negron says, "While the suspect was handcuffed and in custody awaiting placement, he cut himself with a razor blade. The blade is somewhat similar to the insert into a box cutter and he caused an injury to his neck."

The injury is not life threatening.

Mark Cattano has been ticketed for reckless driving and flight to avoid arrest.

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