Passing driver saw man on opposite side of railing
QUECHEE GORGE - The death first thing Saturday morning of a jumper at the Quechee Gorge forced traffic to detour around the scenic landmark while police and fire officials carried out a three-and-a-half hour recovery effort to remove the man's body from the Ottauquechee River at the base of the steep Ice Age canyon.
Speaking at the scene mid-morning, Hartford Police Chief Phil Kasten said that efforts to identify the man were still in their early stages and he noted that, although police expected to have a much better handle on what had happened by Saturday afternoon, each investigation into a suicide at the Gorge takes his department two to three weeks to fully complete.
Saturday's death occurred just before 7:30 a.m. and follows a similar incident just three weeks ago in which a 22-year-old Hartford man jumped to his death in the 163-foot deep Gorge.
"The 911 center received a call from a passing motorist of a man standing on the opposite side of the railing and our police officers came to investigate," Kasten explained, adding, "It's unfortunate that anyone feels that they need to come to this point and time in their life and resort to this. We hope that folks understand that there are people here to help them and they can call on us."
Hartford Police Chief Phil Kasten said his officers have responded several times in recent months to help despondent people at the Gorge
The chief pointed to emergency call boxes and signs located prominently on both ends of the Route 4 bridge, saying, "The state and Headrest have located resources right here at the bridge and (Hartford Police) are a minute or two away. Our staff does a great job of helping to connect folks with assistance. That's all they need to do - ask for help - and we can help them and it's confidential."
"Our preference is that they give us a call and come right to the police station but if this is where they decide to come and ask for help we'll come here," Chief Kasten emphasized, "It doesn't need to come to this."
VTRANS Highway Maintenance Worker Peter Gourley helped man the detour around the Gorge
Lebanon firefighters arrived on the scene to help set up the rope rescue gear
Firefighters listen to a briefing from Hartford Chief Scott Cooney
Although the body was in the river on the northern side of the bridge this time, Hartford Fire Chief Scott Cooney said his Rescue From Heights Team was going to use essentially the same set up that they built at the end of January to lower a pair of firefighters down the icy slopes to the river.
"Hartford Fire partnered with Hanover and Lebanon fire departments this morning to conduct the recovery," Chief Cooney explained. "We are going to set up a lowering system on the downstream side of the bridge to lower two rescuers to the base of the Gorge. They'll have to proceed on foot upstream to where the recovery is going to take place right below the snack bar. Once they get there they will package the patient into a "Stokes" (wire mesh) litter and once the individual is in there we will hoist him to the deck of the bridge using a mechanical hauling system on the back of our Forestry truck."
"It's the same set of terrain this time and we know this system works from previous experience so we are going to utilize that system again because we are familiar with it," the chief said.
Hanover firefighters attach ice crampons to their boots before venturing into the snowy Gorge
The Forestry truck arrives with a special crane built by Dartmouth College engineering students for use in Gorge rescue and recovery operations
Hartford Firefighter Bob Robishaw (white helmet) helps firefighters Mike Tidwell (left) and Christian Henault put on climbing harnesses since they will be the pair rappelling down into the Gorge
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