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Fundraiser for family of brothers who jumped off ‘Jaws’ bridge more than doubles its goal

“Tavaris and Tavaughn left an impression on everyone they met... their bright smiles, charismatic personalities, unshakeable faith and unrelenting positive attitude made them an absolute joy to be around.”

From left to right: Tavaughn and Tavaris Bulgin. courtesy of Rev. Rhoan Perkins

As the search continues for a missing Jamaican man who is presumed dead after jumping off a Martha’s Vineyard bridge with his brother, their former employer launched a fundraiser that has far exceeded its goals in just one day. 

The brothers in question are Tavaris and Tavaughn Bulgin, natives of Clarendon, Jamaica. Late Sunday night, they joined two friends in jumping off the famous American Legion Memorial Bridge between Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. It is more commonly known as the “Jaws” bridge, since it appeared in the iconic film. Jumping off the bridge into the waters below is a common activity for beachgoers every summer. 

The body of 26-year-old Tavaris was recovered Monday morning. Tavaughn remains missing. 

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The two were spending the summer in Oak Bluffs, working at Nomans Restaurant. The eatery’s owner, Doug Abdelnour, created a GoFundMe to raise money for the Bulgin family on Tuesday. 

By Wednesday evening, the fundraiser had more than doubled its initial goal of $50,000. Through 955 donations, the GoFundMe had raised more than $140,000 at the time of publication. 

All donations will go to the Bulgin family, Abdelnour wrote, to cover expenses like travel and funeral services. 

“Tavaris and Tavaughn left an impression on everyone they met — at 26 and 21 years old, their bright smiles, charismatic personalities, unshakeable faith, and unrelenting positive attitude made them an absolute joy to be around,” Abdelnour wrote. 

Both brothers grew up heavily involved in the church, he added, as their father is a local Reverend. They enjoyed playing music during services, and went to study business at University of Technology, Jamaica and University of the West Indies. 

Tavaris worked as a “beloved” school teacher, Abdelnour wrote, and Tavaughn was known for his gifts as a “musical prodigy” and as a soccer player. 

“Their enthusiasm for life, commitment to God and their church, and impact on their community are how family and friends remember them. They leave an unforgettable mark on the community of Martha’s Vineyard, their hometown of Clarendon, and the entire country of Jamaica,” Abdelnour wrote. 

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Police continued to search a large area for Tavaughn on Wednesday, a spokesman told The Boston Globe. Quickly changing weather and tidal conditions have periodically hampered the search, which has been ongoing since around 11:20 Sunday night. The weather prevented diving Wednesday, but police were able to employ all-terrain vehicles on the shoreline and sonar technology. They also hoped to have clear enough skies for an aerial search using the State Police Air Wing. 

The two others who jumped into the dark waters separating Nantucket Sound from Sengekontacket Pond Sunday night were uninjured. The water below the bridge is about 15 feet deep, with occasional tidal changes and rocks on either side posing a danger to swimmers. 

Although multiple signs warn against jumping off the bridge, the activity is a longstanding tradition and law enforcement is spotty. 

State Senator Julian Cyr, who represents Martha’s Vineyard, suggested that increasing police patrols at the bridge would not solve the problem and would strain the local police department’s resources in an interview with the Globe this week. Instead, Cyr said, education should be the focus, especially for the island’s many seasonal workers. 

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