By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A distraught man threatening to jump to his death from the upper deck of the Verrazano Bridge was rescued and brought to safety by police, who talked to him for four-and-a-half hours during a tense standoff that began in the early afternoon and stretched into rush hour Monday evening, authorities said.
Two Asian-American cops — P.O. Yi Huang of the NYPD and officer Eddie Fung of the MTA’s Bridges and Tunnels police force — communicated with the Chinese-speaking man and gained his trust, authorities said.
Huang’s family hailed from the same village in China in which the distraught man grew up, according to the New York Daily News.
“It was a team effort,” MTA spokesperson Judy Glave said.
As police attempted to talk the emotionally disturbed man out of committing suicide, Staten Island-bound traffic came to a standstill. The MTA had ordered the upper level of the bridge to be closed to westbound vehicles. As a result, traffic backed up in Bay Ridge, the neighborhood closest to the bridge on the Brooklyn side of the span. Many of the street corners were turned into parking lots, with drivers all trying to squeeze onto the bridge’s lower level. Traffic was also backed up into Sunset Park.
The drama began at approximately 12:25 p.m., when police from MTA Bridges and Tunnels noticed a car parked mid-span on the westbound side of the bridge’s upper level, Glave said.
Within seconds, they spotted the man standing on the outer rim of the bridge.
The MTA closed the upper level of the bridge at 12:30 p.m.
Officer Darren Fox attempted to talk to the man, but realized immediately that there was a language barrier. The emotionally disturbed man was speaking in Cantonese. Still, Fox tried to communicate in a unique manner.
“He had two tattoos with Chinese lettering. One said 'Strength.' The other said 'Father.' He kept showing the tattoos to the man,” Glave said.
NYPD officers, ambulances, EMS units and an aviation unit arrived at the scene. The Coast Guard was also informed of the situation.
Officer Fung, who is fluent in Cantonese, was brought to the scene.
“He talked to the guy for four-and-a-half hours. The NYPD’s Hostage Negotiating Team was there. They guided Officer Fung, telling him how to speak to the guy,” Glave said.
Huang, who works at Chinatown’s Fifth Precinct, was brought to the bridge. He and Fung took turns talking to the distraught man.
“Officer Fung kept talking to the man about the man’s daughter,” Glave said.
The Daily News reported that the man was distraught over a fight he had with his daughter and about financial problems.
Huang established a connection with the man by talking about the Chinese village they had in common.
Finally, at 4:48 p.m., the man allowed police to grab him. He was taken by ambulance to Staten Island University Hospital North for evaluation. Fung rode in the ambulance with him.
“It was really quite an effort,” Glave said.
The bridge’s upper level was reopened at 5:12 p.m.