Jumper down

New York, NY, USA

Hanging on

A man clings to a ringbolt after jumping from the Williamsburg Bridge

New York, NY, USA

Living and working by the East River means that I've grown used to looking out of my window and seeing the river crowded with police and fire boats, or watching the NYPD's big search and rescue helicopter flying slow orbits over the Williamsburg Bridge. Whenever this happens, it's usually a sign that someone has jumped into the river, and the cops are busy combing the water for the body.

Today, alerted by the sound of a siren, I looked outside and saw that East River Park was filling up with fire trucks, while half a dozen small boats jostled for position near the closer pier of the Williamsburg Bridge. The Brooklyn-bound roadway of the bridge was filled with white Emergency Services trucks.

Events like this often end apparently inconclusively; after a while, the helicopter stops circling and flies away, the boats pack up and go home, the trucks drive off in convoy. It's difficult to know what exactly did or did not happen. Today, however, the cause of all the fuss was clear.

Clinging to a metal ringbolt set in the pier of the bridge was a stout middle-aged man with white hair, an expression of considerable discomfort on his face. Beside him floated a life buoy, and one of the police boats was edging nearer, running its engine to keep its prow pressed against the pier of the bridge. A life-jacketed police officer leaned out, waving a boathook toward the swimmer. After a few moments of hesitation, the swimmer released his hold on the ringbolt, reached for the boathook, and allowed himself to be pulled aboard the police boat.

Local news confirmed that the man jumped from the bridge. Once in the water, he apparently changed his mind about killing himself – if that had indeed been his intention – and clung to the bridge until the police were able to pull him out. The part of the bridge from which he jumped is probably at least 100 feet (30 meters) above the water, but he survived the fall with injuries to his legs and a minor cut to his face.

The final count of resources deployed to help him out of the water was impressive: four fire trucks, three NYPD ESU trucks, two fire command cars, three police cars (one unmarked), four NYPD motorboats, a fireboat and two ambulances. The helicopter did not put in an appearance.

I hope he recovers quickly from his injuries, and gets all the help that he needs to deal with whatever caused him to jump in the first place.