Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs / Sun City Editor

Ithaca firefighters used a ladder as one rappelled over the west side of the Stewart Avenue bridge on Monday evening to rescue a man who had fallen onto a net that hangs below.

September 24, 2018

Ithaca Firefighters Rescue Man from Net Below Bridge Near Cornell

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Ithaca firefighters rescued a man from a net below the Stewart Avenue bridge at the edge of Collegetown on Monday evening, rappelling down and bringing him to safety.

The man, whose identity was not released, was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and is expected to fully recover, Cornell spokesperson John Carberry said.

Emergency personnel arrived about 6:30 p.m. at the bridge over Cascadilla Creek, which is just off campus. They connected a firefighter to a truck’s ladder and he rappelled off of the west end of the bridge as other firefighters peered over its metal edge. Police diverted vehicles and curious students away from the bridge as the sun set.

The firefighter was pulled back up at about 7:24 p.m. and the man was placed into an ambulance. Fire Chief Tom Parsons said the Ithaca Police Department is investigating the incident.

Walter Hartman said he was sitting on a rock wall just south of the bridge when he saw a man hop onto the bridge’s metal railing and jump over, landing in a net that sits below. Hartman and other bystanders ran over and saw the man scoot toward the edge of the net, letting his legs hang over the net’s edge, he said.

“He dangled his feet, then just lay back” on the net, said Hartman, a Cornell Building Care employee. “I know the first thing he asked was, ‘Can you get me a ladder?’”

As the man lay on the net, Hartman and another bystander began speaking with him from the bridge, telling him “don’t do it” and trying to keep him talking. The man appeared calm as he answered their questions about what kind of music he listens to and what he studies in school, Hartman said.

The man told them he was a senior at Cornell, Hartman said. Carberry said that Cornell could not provide more information about the incident “due to privacy restrictions.”

Carberry said Cornell is “grateful to our local first responders, and thankful that the safety systems put in place by Cornell several years ago have proven their life-saving value.”

Cornell installed nets near and under seven campus and city bridges in 2012 after nearly two years of controversy about how to curb suicides. The nets replaced chain link fences that Cornell had erected on the bridges in response to several suicides in 2010.

An Ithaca-based Crisisline is available at 607-272-1616. Students can consult with counselors from Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) by calling 607-255-5155, and employees can call the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at 607-255-2673.