Man climbs down off USCG water tower

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The USCG Training Center is shown beyond a CMPD police car on Pennsylvania Avenue. The USCG Training Center is shown beyond a CMPD police car on Pennsylvania Avenue. CAPE MAY — After nearly 14 hours, an active duty Coast Guard member climbed down from the 165-foot water tower at the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center-Cape May (TRACEN).

TRACEN Public Information Officer Lt. Kate McHenry said the man climbed the tower just after noon on Thursday, June 5, and climbed down about 2 a.m. Friday.

McHenry said negotiators from the Cape May County Prosecutors Office talked to the man throughout the day. Finally, around 2 a.m., the Coast Guard Fire Department passed a harness to the man and assisted him in safely climbing down from water tower.

Around 3 p.m., Thursday, McHenry briefed the press on the situation, saying the individual “climbed up the water tower without authorization” and said the Coast Guard was hopeful for a positive resolution to the matter. McHenry said the Coast Guard knew the identity of the man, but they were not releasing any information on him.

The man appeared and disappeared from view as he walked around the water tank on a platform approximately 130 feet up. The man first appeared to be agitated as he spoke to someone on a cell phone. McHenry said he was not speaking to Coast Guard personnel, who attempted to talk to him with a megaphone. Officials could be heard addressing the man as “Mike,” asking him sit up when he laid down on the platform.

At one point the man waved and gestured to someone on the ground. He was seen alternately pacing and resting against the railing on the platform. On at least one occasion the man sat on the middle rail with his legs outside the railing, and at one point he stood with his entire body outside the safety of the railing.

The man appeared to have a notebook, and at times would tear out a sheet of paper and drop it to the ground.

In the meantime, no attempt was made by anyone to climb the tower and reach the man due to concerns for his safety. Officials waited until the man indicated he was ready to come down. However, at one point the man requested some items, which McHenry said were provided to him using a rope system.

On Thursday, outside agencies were not called in for at least an hour and a half as Coast Guard officials, including medical personnel and a psychiatrist attempted to talk the man down. Cape May Police arrived just past 1:30 p.m., Thursday, and secured the area outside the base, turning back visitors, including Coast Guard members going to the base for non-essential activities. Personnel critical to the training mission were allowed on the base.

Other agencies soon arrived, including the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, which sent its Office of Emergency Management command vehicle and a Crime Scene Investigation vehicle, the Cape May County Sheriff’s Department and SWAT team. Lower Township Police and Wildwood Police also responded. The Cape May Fire/Rescue Department sent a ladder truck and an ambulance.

The Coast Guard Police Department and Coast Guard Fire Department were on the scene inside the base throughout the incident.

After five or six hours, some agency vehicles were seen leaving the area.

As of June 2, TRACEN had 427 recruits in training on the base, which continued despite the incident. Recruit graduation took place Friday on the base as scheduled.

There are about 2,000 people in the base workforce, which in addition to TRACEN includes a small boat station, aids to navigation, the fire department and a VA medial facility. There is also a base exchange and dining facility used by all personnel.

TRACEN commanding officer Capt. Todd Prestidge commented on the incident, saying, “We are so grateful the situation was able to be resolved safely. Our thoughts and prayers are with the member and his family during this difficult time. I am very proud of the response from my crew and the local Coast Guard family, and appreciate the support and partnership from local agencies. Cape May County truly is a Coast Guard Community.”


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