BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – A suicidal man spent six hours near the brink of Niagara Falls before jumping into the water in front of the rescuers who had been trying to coax him to safety, authorities said Wednesday.
Firefighters and police were still able to pull him from the Niagara River about 15 yards from the precipice, Lt. Patrick Moriarty of the New York State Park Police said.
The 33-year-old man, who was from Long Island, was taken to a Niagara Falls hospital for evaluation.
Shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday, the man called 911 and told a dispatcher he planned to kill himself. An officer spotted the man at the water’s edge. He had climbed over a rail about 30 to 40 yards from where the river spills over the 16-story cliff.
Moriarty, who had talked another suicidal man from the river above the falls less than two weeks earlier, arrived around 3 a.m. He tentatively approached until he was close enough to be heard over the water, taking his place on a rock near where the man was balanced on another.
“You have to get close enough that you can have a meaningful conversation,” Moriarty said. “When we first arrived he was a perfect stranger. We had no idea who this subject was or what brought him to this point.”
The man said he had had health problems but didn’t say what had brought him across the state. For the next four hours he alternated between talkative and unresponsive.
Around 7 a.m., Moriarty thought the man was on the verge of returning to safety when instead he suddenly jumped backward into the rapids.
“I was shocked. I did not see that coming, I thought we were wearing him down and it was going to be a matter of minutes before he gave up,” the officer said.
Moriarty and two Niagara Falls firefighters, wearing harnesses with ropes held by firefighters on shore, ran alongside as the man was carried toward the brink. About halfway there, he turned his body and began swimming toward land, trying to grab onto rocks.
“I think he changed his mind,” Moriarty said.
“As soon as he got close enough,” he said, “the three of us grabbed different parts of his body and hauled him up on shore.”
Shaking violently from the cold, the man said nothing as he was taken to an ambulance.