Incident shut down Route 4 Bridge over the noon hour on Sunday
QUECHEE GORGE - A Hartford resident in his early 20s jumped to his death at the Quechee Gorge on Sunday morning, prompting a three-and-half hour recovery effort that closed the bridge over the noon hour.
Police said the young man’s death was especially disappointing because he’d been successfully talked off the bridge by a friend less than a month ago.
Hartford Police Sgt. Connie Kelley said that 911 dispatchers were informed at 10 a.m. that someone had gone into the 163-foot deep gorge.
Hartford Firefighter Luke Harvey makes his way back up the steep side of the gorge after he and Firefighter Christian Henault rappelled to the bottom to recover the body
“Some people were out here sightseeing. They looked and he was standing on the bridge but when they looked back he was gone,” Sgt. Kelley recalled, “Then they looked over the side and they saw his body.”
Hartford Fire called out the members of their Rescue From Heights Team to recover the body which was in the water at the edge of the Ottauquechee River where ice formations along the bank prevented it from going downstream.
Hartford Fire Chief Scott Cooney stands near one of the prominent suicide prevention signs at the Quechee Gorge
Because of the extreme icing conditions all throughout the gorge, firefighters decided it was actually safer to lower two of their members straight down the rocky cliffs on rope lines rather than to chance slipping off the paths that lead down to the bottom.
Police and Vermont Agency of Transportation crews shut down the Route 4 bridge and detoured traffic around the scene for an hour in order to allow the recovery team to raise the body up to the bridge deck using a special crane mounted on a fire department utility truck.
Hartford Town Manager Leo Pullar watches the recovery crane being maneuvered into place
“It’s sad on all accounts. It’s sad for the families and for these guys who go down and do the hard work of recovering the bodies,” Sgt. Kelley said, noting that Hartford Police regularly have to investigate reports that despondent people have threatened to jump and may be heading for the bridge. “We get them the help as best we can. We bring them to the hospital and hope that they’re able to take care of whatever issues they are struggling with.”
Firefighters get a briefing from the chief before heading into the gorge
Rappelers were tied off to trees and sections of the bridge railing for added safety
Hartford Police Chief Phil Kasten (right) noted that no one jumped in 2017 and said the Vermont Agency of Transportation continues to work on measures to try and deter suicides at the gorge
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