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GWB a ‘suicide magnet’? Woman jumps to death

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A woman left her car on the lower level of the George Washington Bridge and jumped to her death this morning.

An NYPD helicopter and Harbor Patrol boat were searching the Hudson River.

Meanwhile, a witness remained by her vehicle, about 50 yards from the New York tower,the authority’s Joseph Pentangelo told CLIFFVIEW PILOT just after 10 a.m.

Despite the perception that it’s a magnet for jumpers, the 82-year-old GWB is topped by several other spans throughout the world. San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, for instance, had 10 last August — an average of one every three days — as part of 46 in 2013.

Officials temporarily halted the Golden Gate count at 997 nearly 20 years ago to prevent “record breakers.” Since then, another 1,000 have jumped — 50 per years.

That said, the number of GWB jumpers has ticked up in recent years.

There were 15 confirmed suicides last year, with 49 saves — formally known as “interventions,” Pentangelo said.

That came after what is considered a recent GWB record, 18 suicides, that were recorded in 2012 — more than all of the other Hudson and East River crossings combined. This followed a decade that averaged six per year.

So far this year, five people are believed to have jumped from the the 212-foot-high span into the Hudson. There have also been a dozen saves.

Contrast that with an average of three a year off the Tappan Zee.

At the other end of the spectrum is Niagara Falls, where from 20 to 25 people jump each year.

The victims sometimes bring notoriety.

Two of the George’s 13 jumpers in 2010 made national news — 18-year-old Rutgers student Tyler Clementi and reality show chef Joseph Cerniglia. Last year it was Ashley Riggitano, a jewelry designer from Paramus who jumped on her 22nd birthday, leaving behind a long note citing five people who she said wronged her.

Despite the force of the impace, an estimated 20 or so people have survived the drop.

A 28-year-old a former Naval Academy water-polo player was the last one, in 2009. Several years ago, a woman was plucked from the water alive but suffering from serious lifelong injuries. The same for a man who lived to tell about his leap in 1968.

Then there was a Bergen County who in the 1940s bet a friend that he could survive. He swam to shore, collected his money — then died of his injuries a few days later.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline says bridge barriers work best at preventing jumpers. They also promote having signs and phones along the walkways.

The Port Authority employs a private security company to be its eyes and ears on the bridge when officers aren’t frequently patrolling. A dozen or so phones are labeled “Need Help” in Spanish and English — and connect directly to suicide hotlines. The walkways close at midnight.

Critics say the four-foot railings make it easy for those with the will.

But there also have been many heroes.

In 2007, Port Authority police deftly brought down a man who scaled one of the cables.

In the late 1990s, a man who’d been talked down once before climbed to the top of the west tower — in a tuxedo — and tied a rope around his neck.

The climber affixed the other end to the tower so that if police came too close, he would jump, his lifeless body left to swing in where the American flag is hung. He even stripped off his tuxedo pants to reveal a sweatsuit.

As choppers circled overhead and photographers snapped away, PAPD negotiators talked him down.

Last May, Port Authority Police Officer Jesse Turano grabbed a 40-year-old Queens man who “went airborne” over a railing and pulled him back. A month later, a 57-year-old homeless man had one leg over the railing when Port Authority Police Officer Raul Munoz pulled him to safety.

In a bizarre coincidence, a woman was prevented from jumping last Friday night a minute after a man went over the side and into the Hudson. Two good Samaritans who spotted her stopped their cars, rushed over and held onto her, Pentangelo said.

The 29-year-old man, who left a backpack on the walkway, was later spotted floating in the Hudson.

On Feb. 1, a 26-year-old Manhattan woman stared down at the river after climbing over a GWB railing when she was surprised by Officers Stephen Gryboski, a 13-year department veteran, and Mario Garcia, a nine-year vet.

While one grabbed her in a bear hug, pinning her to the railing, the other got hold of her legs and flipped her back onto the south walkway. She was brought to Bergen Regional Medical Center.

This December marks 20 years since one of the most popularized rescues. That day, a 29-year-old Bronx man bent on going over the north side took a moment to first call Howard Stern on his cellphone.

One of the listeners, a Port Authority PD tour commander, heard the broadcast and rushed over. As drivers honked their horns, the commander took the man into custody.

Westbound drivers came over, borrowed the man’s phone and talked to Stern on the air. So did a few cops.

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