GREENPORT — A man has been given another lease on life after police were able to convince him not to jump from the Rip Van Winkle Bridge on Friday.
The unidentified man was rescued by police early Friday morning, said Aaron Hicks, public information officer for state police Troop K.
On Thursday, at about 11:51 p.m., state police were sent by Columbia County 911 to the Columbia County side of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge for a reported welfare check. Dispatchers had received reports of a man in the area. The Hudson River Skywalk is closed to pedestrians after dark.
When police arrived at the bridge, they located the man’s car parked on the bridge. The man had climbed over the guardrail to get to the walkway, Hicks said. State police, and several other police agencies negotiated with the man in an effort to persuade him to change his mind.
The negotiations lasted more than an hour, Hicks said.
After police convinced the man to seek help, they brought him to Columbia Memorial Health, where he was admitted for evaluation, Hicks said.
The bridge was closed in both directions while police were talking to the man. The New York state Bridge Authority sent out messages to motorists on Facebook, Twitter and by e-mail announcing the bridge was closed due to a police presence.
State police were assisted at the scene by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, and Catskill Police.
The bridge was reopened to traffic at 1:15 a.m.
Police have been able to thwart several suicide attempts recently on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. The latest was in spring 2020, when a woman threatened to jump. In December 2019, Catskill Police successfully negotiated with a potential jumper, and a month earlier, in November 2019, an unidentified man, 48, was stopped from jumping from the steel structure after he had climbed to the top.
Others were not so lucky. A man, 71, from Valatie jumped to his death in January 2019. A Germantown man died after jumping in September 2018. Another man died in October 2014. A Livingston man, 46, jumped to his death in July 2013, and a Cornwalville man committed suicide, by jumping in January 2012.
In July 2007, phones linked to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline were installed at both ends of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. The phones were part of a comprehensive plan for suicide prevention by the state Bridge Authority.
“Many people who wind up on bridges are ambivalent,” said Gary Spielmann, former director of suicide prevention for the New York state Office of Mental Health. “They are persuadable, not committed to going through with it, and suicide is a very lonely business. If they can reach another human being, chances are they will change their mind.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can also be reached by calling 800-273-8255.