By Bill Kirk
---- — LAWRENCE — Police Sgt. Robert Michaud was directing traffic outside the New Balance factory on So. Union Street around noon yesterday when he was approached by pedestrians telling him there was a man sitting on top of the Duck Bridge.
“They said he was sitting on a metal beam,” Michaud said. He walked down the pedestrian walkway on one side of the bridge and found the man, about midway across, 18 feet up on a steel girder.
“At first, I thought he was working,” Michaud said. “I yelled up to him, but he didn’t respond. Then he started walking around.”
That’s when Michaud decided to call for back-up, as it looked like the man might be suicidal. It was later learned that the man, 34, recently moved here from Puerto Rico.
Within minutes, both sides of the bridge were closed to automotive and pedestrian traffic as fire, police and ambulance crews converged on the scene, aided by firefighters from North Andover and Lawrence in two rescue boats below.
Fire Dep. Joe McInnis said firefighters placed several ladders up on the bridge metalwork and used them to try to corral the man into one spot, so his only choice to get off the bridge was to climb down the ladder.
Meanwhile, Fire Capt. Robert Wilson and Firefighter Manuel Guitierrez spoke with the man, trying to calm him and encourage him to get off the bridge.
“The guys did a great job taking him down,” McInnis said, noting that the man was about 70 feet from the surface of the water.
The man’s sister showed up and also spoke briefly to him, according to police and fire officials.
As the incident was unfolding, about 20 people gathered at the end of the bridge near New Balance, watching as the man stood still, staring into the river below, or paced on the steel girders. At one point, it looked like the man was lying down on the steel beams.
Police Chief John Romero said the man was staying with his mother in South Lawrence.
“He got here three weeks ago,” Romero said. “His sister said he’s been dealing with some issues.” He was taken to Holy Family Hospital for observation, according to McInnis.