Town of Ulster officials last week honored two Dutchess County residents and a Town police officer for their efforts in preventing a possible suicide on the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge.
Nestler, Letterio and Officer Gary Short were honored at Sept. 7’s town board meeting.
The incident took place on Thursday, June 29 at around 8:40 p.m., when Sean Nestler of Milan and Eric Letterio of Hyde Park each stopped their cars after noticing a man sitting on the edge of the railing in the middle of the Hudson River-spanning bridge.
“Both men, sensing that immediate action was necessary, stopped their vehicles and approached the distraught subject as the subject told them he was going to jump,” said Town Supervisor James Quigley III. “As officers from the Town of Ulster Police Department arrived, they observed Eric standing on the bridge talking to the suicidal man, and Sean was also standing next to the railing, holding on to the man’s belt and shirt, trying to talk him into stepping off the railing.”
Quigley said that Nestler and Letterio did what many drivers who passed by before them did not: They stopped their cars and got involved. “In everyday life we come upon incidents where we’re presented with an opportunity to step forward and go above and beyond what is normally expected of us in society.”
Nestler and Letterio said that it only took around four minutes before police arrived, a period of time which felt infinitely longer. Once Officer Short began talking to the man, who was by then standing on the rail, they said it took another 15 minutes or so for the man to voluntarily step away from the edge.
“Officer Short maintained the utmost professionalism while calmly talking to the victim,” Quigley said. “Throughout this incident, Officer Short was able to connect with the victim on a personal level and started to gain his trust, ensuring him that they were there to help. After talking to the victim for a period of time, Officer Short was able to convince him to step off the railing and back to safety.”
Nestler and Letterio were commended for their action during last week’s meeting by Police Chief Kyle Berardi. ‘We need more people like you guys in the community,” said Berardi. “You two took time out of your day to try to save a life.”
Short agreed. “I appreciate you stopping and taking time out of your day to save a life,” he said. “It was a group effort. I couldn’t have done it alone.”
Nestler said he ordinarily takes the Taconic State Parkway home, but that night took the New York State Thruway, Route 209, and ultimately, the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge instead. He added that while he was happy with how the incident ended, he was disturbed by how many drivers appeared to be documenting the incident on their smartphones rather than calling for help.
“A hundred people drove past and, to tell you the truth, a good 75 to 80 percent of them just had their phones up taking video,” Nestler said. “It’s a shame that it comes to that point. Someone should have stopped before us.”