Teenager kills himself by leaping from the Vessel at Hudson Yards
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Teenager kills himself by leaping from the Vessel at Hudson Yards
Tourists outside of the Vessel at Hudson Yards in New York, Dec. 19, 2019. A 19-year-old man jumped to his death from the 150-foot-high steel structure on Feb. 1, 2020, the authorities said. Mark Wickens/The New York Times.

by Katie Van Syckle

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE ).- A 19-year-old man jumped to his death on Saturday from the Vessel, the sculpture that is the centerpiece in the Hudson Yards development, authorities said.

The leap around 6 p.m. stunned visitors to the 150-foot-high steel structure. Some onlookers screamed as they realized what had happened, witnesses said.

One person ran up to the body and covered the young man’s face with a jacket, the witnesses said.

The identity of the young man who died was not officially released, but classmates said he was Peter De Salvo, who graduated from Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.

They were stunned at the news.

“Of anyone from our grade, I wouldn’t have expected it to be Peter,” David Ji, 18, said. “He seemed happy for the most part. He seemed to be enjoying life.”

Peter Salkowski, of Cold Spring, Kentucky, said that he had seen the body lying on the ground from close to the top of the sculpture Saturday, and that his wife, Marita Salkowski, had called 911.

He said he had spoken with a man who tried to grab the teenager and stop him from jumping. “He said he tried to grab him, he tried to stop him,” Salkowski said, but the young man “put his feet up on the rail and dove out.”

“We were all crying,” he said. “You hate to think someone thinks their life is at the point that there is nothing else they can do, like that is the only answer they have, and it is not.”

Police officers on the scene Saturday night asked visitors climbing on the 154 interconnecting staircases to leave the structure. It closed 30 minutes before its usual 7 p.m. shutdown. On Sunday, the site reopened to the public.

Brigham Barnes, who had been waiting in line Saturday to enter the Vessel with a friend, said the young man fell on the south side of the sculpture, and soon after Hudson Yards employees put up a small tent blocking the view.

“Everyone was very quiet,” Barnes said.

On Sunday, dozens of visitors waited in line to enter the sculpture. No areas appeared to be restricted, and a security guard was not aware of any extra security measures but said guards were trained to look out for possible suicides.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the family of the person who lost their life last evening. We have no further comment at this time,” said Kathleen Corless, a spokeswoman for Hudson Yards.

The Vessel, along Manhattan’s West Side Highway, was designed by Thomas Heatherwick and Heatherwick Studio. Visitors are encouraged to climb what the creators call an interactive artwork with almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings that provide expansive views of New York City and the Hudson River.

Heatherwick’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Visitors and critics have raised concerns that the design might pose safety risks. Audrey Wachs, the former associate editor of The Architect’s Newspaper, wrote in a critique published in 2016: “As one climbs up Vessel, the railings stay just above waist height all the way up to the structure’s top, but when you build high, folks will jump.”

On Sunday morning, Wachs woke up to Twitter notifications linking to her review and news that confirmed her worst prediction. “I feel terrible for this person and his family and friends,” Wachs said. “This is not a critique that you would like to be proven right.”


If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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