A drowning man was rescued from the East River Wednesday night, safely pulled from the water off the Upper East Side in pitch black thanks to the actions of quick-thinking Good Samaritans and first responders from the NYPD and FDNY, witnesses and officials tell Upper East Site.
Minutes before 8:30 pm, police and fire officials say the first 911 calls for help came in reporting the man, described as being in his 50s, drowning in the East River near the esplanade at East 74th Street.
FDNY units raced to the scene on the FDR Drive with a convoy of lights and sirens as at least three NYPD Harbor Unit vessels moved in from the water, and a police helicopter hovered overhead.
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Minutes earlier, an Upper East Side couple running along the esplanade heard the man screaming desperately for help — yelling so loudly they could hear his cries through the music on their headphones and the FDR Drive traffic beside them, the duo told Upper East Site.
“I was running with my wife today, and we heard someone yelling for help inside the river,” the husband explained.
The married couple, who wish to remain anonymous, explained to Upper East Site how they rushed to the water and spotted the man struggling to keep his head above water in the East River’s choppy current. The pair said the man in the water told them he had tied a heavy weight to himself before jumping in the river because he wanted to die and then, once in the river, realized he wanted to live.
The partners quickly grabbed a metal barricade on the esplanade — the heavy kind that looks like a bike rack — and passed it to the drowning man, still laboring in the water as the husband-and-wife team worked together to hold it steady, they explained.
“We used one of those steel barricades as a ‘ladder’ to help him keep his head out of the water,” the courageous Upper East Side husband explained.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” the Good Samaritans say the distraught man kept telling them, revealing to his rescuers that he suffers from mental illness and thought he had wanted to die. The man went on to explain he had been in the river for 30 minutes before the UES couple heard his wails and dashed to his aid.
Quickly arriving on the scene after the couple’s call to 911 for help, NYPD divers entered the water to free the man from the weight tethered to his body and got him out of the river ‘without incident,’ police say, describing his condition as ‘conscious and alert.’
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Officials say paramedics took the man to Weill Cornell Medical Center on the Upper East Side for further care.
“We were there at the right time,” the heroic husband told Upper East Site, “It was supposed to be, and we did the least that we could do.”
Anyone seeking support with their mental health or contemplating self-harm can connect with trained counselors by calling 888-NYC-WELL, texting ‘WELL’ to 65173, chatting online at nyc.gov/nycwell, or dialing 988 for The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
Additional reporting by Sonia Izak
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