Original article no longer available
Thursday, August 04, 2005
By DOUG AUER and REGINALD PATRICK
44-year-old father of toddler drove his car to Verrazano-Narrow Bridge and jumped into water
STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE
At 6 o’clock yesterday morning, Gerard Tarter got up to help his wife prepare breakfast for their 16-month-old son. Then the family went back to sleep.
Sometime later, while his wife and son were still sleeping, the Tarter quietly slipped out of their Port Richmond home and eventually drove to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Halfway across the lower level, about 1:30 p.m., he parked his car in the Brooklyn-bound right lane, then jumped.
An NYPD helicopter happened to be circling in the area and witnessed Tarter’s death plunge. And coincidentally, Coast Guard personnel were on the beach within sight of the Verrazano when Tarter hit the water.
They notified headquarters at Fort Wadsworth, and a Coast Guard recovery craft was dispatched quickly from the Rosebank station.
Guided by the NYPD helicopter, the boat, manned by Petty Officers Bryan Jones, Christopher Taylor and Robert Norling, and Fireman Eduardo Gutierrez, found Tarter floating unconscious, face down.
They pulled him from the waters of New York Harbor at about 1:40 p.m., some 200 yards south of the bridge and about a mile from the Staten Island shoreline. Lacerations covered his face, chest, stomach and arms, according to the crew.
Tarter had no pulse and the crew performed CPR in a desperate effort to revive him as the boat raced to the Rosebank station. There, firefighters and paramedics from St. Vincent’s Hospital, West Brighton, took over until Tarter was whisked by ambulance to Staten Island University Hospital in Ocean Breeze. He was pronounced dead at 2:07 p.m.
A floral designer, Tarter had reported to work on Monday at Clark’s House of Flowers, Meiers Corners, the same as he had done for the past 25 years.
But co-workers told the Advance that in recent months they had noticed a change in his behavior.
And although his stunned wife said Tarter had been taking medication for depression, nothing had prepared her for yesterday’s tragedy.
“I’m speechless. I have no idea what to say,” Gloria Tarter told the Advance last night, as she sat on the front porch of the two-family home the couple shared with her mother, Gloria Colon.
Tarter graduated from St. Peter’s Boys High School and St. John’s University on Grymes Hill. The couple was married in September 2003 in St. Roch’s R.C. Church in Port Richmond.
Their 16-month-old son, Christopher, trotted around in his pajamas on the porch, his long, curly blond hair pulled behind his ears, as his grandmother tried to feed him yogurt.
“This was completely unexpected,” Mrs. Tarter said in a soft voice. She didn’t know the exact time her husband left their Treadwell Avenue house, which they had been renovating since moving in a year ago.
She didn’t understand what happened.
“I wish I knew,” she said.
Last night on Pelton Avenue in West Brighton, where Tarter had lived until his marriage, he was fondly remembered by neighbors.
“The nicest person you’d ever want to meet,” said Elaine McCormick-Lewis, who has lived two doors from Tarter’s mother, Paula, for 30 years.
She recalled how her son, Bill, 42, played on the same Snug Harbor Little League team as Tarter.
“He was so respectful and always had a smile,” said Mrs. McCormick-Lewis.
Her husband, Joseph, said he couldn’t imagine “what might’ve provoked” Tarter’s suicide.
“I can’t even picture him doing something like this,” said Mrs. McCormick-Lewis.
Dawn Sorrento, a next-door neighbor of Tarter’s mother for seven years, said everything seemed to be fine.
“Two weekends ago, the family was all over and they were on the porch, talking and laughing,” she said, adding that Tarter’s mother would often visit her son and his family. “He was so excited to have the baby. I’m just shocked.”
As police investigated Tarter’s death yesterday, the right lane of the lower level of the Verrazano, Brooklyn-bound, was closed, said Frank Pascual, spokesman for MTA Bridges and Tunnels.
Tarter’s gray 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe was vouchered for safekeeping at the Mid-Island’s 122nd Precinct, a police spokesman said.
Tarter is the second man to jump to his death from the Verrazano this year.
On Feb. 7, Anuj V. Jain, 30, of the 3500 block of Amboy Road, Bay Terrace, tumbled nearly 100 feet over the Fort Wadsworth Gateway National Recreation Area before landing on concrete. He was said to have been despondent over job woes.
— Advance reporters Stephen Hart and Remington Gregg contributed to this report.
Doug Auer and Reginald Patrick are news reporter for the Advance. They may be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.