YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A trio of quick-thinking Port Authority police officers handcuffed a suicidal 22-year-old man to a George Washington Bridge railing before pulling him back to safety.
Officers found the emotionally disturbed man on the other side of the railing of the closed north walkway just before 2 a.m. today, the authority’s Joseph Pentangelo told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this morning.
A contractor called them after seeing him get out of his 2014 Honda CVR on the westbound upper level and sprint toward the walkway.
The distraught man told responding Officer Christopher Arroyo, Alex Baez and Kaitlyn Van Woudenberg that he wanted to die, Pentangelo said.
He then asked Arroyo to fetch his cellphone from his car “so he could say goodbye to his family,” he said.
Sensing the opportunity, Arroyo inched closer, asking the man for his cellphone passcode.
Once he got close enough, Pentangelo said, Arroyo “reached over the railing, grabbed him in a bear hug and pinned him.”
Van Woudenberg grabbed one of the man’s arms and held it, while Baez cuffed him to the railing.
“He struggled to push off the outer railing to break free,” Pentangelo said, “but the handcuffs and their physical strength prevented him from doing so.”
The contractor joined in, and all four hoisted the 5-foot-10-inch, 200-pound man back onto the walkway. He was taken to Bergen Regional Medical Center and the Honda was impounded.
Arroyo, a U.S. Army and Marine Corps veteran who served two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was knocked to the pavement during the struggle and was treated for a minor knee injury, Pentangelo said.
Like Arroyo, Baez joined the PAPD in 2002.
Van Woudenberg is a recent graduate of the 113th PAPD Academy Class who joined the department last year.
It was the 13th save in 2015 for PAPD officers, who had 74 last year.
There have been two confirmed suicides from the bridge so far this year — both men were strangers who jumped within minutes of one another.