Hartford rescuers organize the effort to recover the body of a man who jumped off the Quechee Gorge Bridge on Sunday. (Eric Francis Photo)
By Eric Francis, Standard Correspondent
QUECHEE – A Hartford resident in his early 20s jumped to his death at the Quechee Gorge on Sunday morning, authorities said, which prompted a three-and-half hour recovery effort that closed the bridge over the noon hour.
Police said the young man had 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.
“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.
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.
“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.”