NEW SCOTLAND — The kind of story that nearly always has a tragic ending came to a happy conclusion Friday on the cliffs of John Boyd Thacher Park.
A troubled Albany man who jumped from the cliff at the Glen Doone pavilion late on New Year’s Eve and was reported missing on Thursday was found alive Friday morning, injured but conscious and alert after falling more than 100 feet and then sliding another 100-plus feet down an icy incline into trees.
While people fall or jump from time to time, it is unusual for people to survive the lengthy fall.
“I’ve been doing this for 33 years, and this is only the second, maybe the third, that we have brought up alive,” Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple said after a four-hour rescue operation was completed about 1 p.m. Friday.
After he was brought up the cliff during a lengthy rope rescue, Zachary Barrantes, 25, of Albany, was taken by helicopter to Albany Medical Center — a six minute flight. The extent of his injuries was unclear. While Apple said his arms and legs were badly banged up, he didn’t know whether Barrantes suffered any broken bones. He is also likely to have suffered from both dehyration and hypothermia from spending more than 48 hours in the cold.
“It’s a heck of a fall. You’re dropping straight down more than 100 feet,” Apple said.
A missing poster for Zachary Barrantes tweeted by Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple.
Barrantes was dropped off at the Thacher Park Visitors’ Center, which is near the cliff tops, by an Uber driver at about 11 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. He was wearing only a light winter jacket and sweat pants, Apple said. Apple acknowledged the outcome would likely have been different if it had been colder the last two days.
“I’m blown away that he’s alive,” Apple said. “Very few people have jumped off this escarpment and been alive.”
Barrantes — whom family members told television stations had a history of mental health issues — had left a residence on New Scotland Avenue in Albany about 5 or 6 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, saying he was going to his parents’ house, but never arrived. His mother notified Albany police he was missing on Thursday, and an investigation traced him to the Thacher Park Uber drop-off. At that point, late in the afternoon, Albany police contacted the sheriff’s office.
There was a brief search late Thursday afternoon, but it was called off until morning due to darkness and treacherous terrain. Drones were also used, but were unsuccessful, Apple said.
When the search resumed Friday morning — with 20-24 sheriff’s personnel, plus state police, state park police and state forest rangers –one of the commanders found a shoe at about 8:30 a.m. Barrantes was then found a little further down the escarpment, leaning up against a tree. “It appears he had gone over the edge on New Year’s Eve, and had been down there since,” Apple said.
Apple said the Uber driver has been interviewed and would be interviewed again, and said he was disturbed the driver had dropped Barrantes, who was by himself, in a dark location late at night on New Year’s Eve.
While Apple said he believes the unidentified driver has some moral culpability for having dropped off a troubled man late at night near the cliffs, but he doesn’t believe it would sufficient for a criminal charge.
The sheriff called Barrantes’ mental condition at the time he was dropped off “not good,” though by Friday morning he appeared to be glad to be rescued.
ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple speaks to the media after the search and rescue crew saves Zachary Barrantes, who was missing for 48 hours, in Thacher Park in Voorheesville on Friday, January 3, 2020.
“He came up here with a goal in mind, and it is unfortunate, he is obviously battling some demons, he has some mental health issues, and in his words, he had jumped off the edge,” Apple said.
The sheriff said Barrantes, who was placed in a full body-immobilizing suit for his four-hour trip up the cliff accompanies by roped rescuers, said “I’m awake,” when he arrived at the top of the cliff, where he was surrounded by medical personnel and police.
“He was conscious and alert when he came over the edge, and now hopefully he will get the treatment he needs,” Apple said.
Last June, a 19-year-old man was rescued after accidently falling from the cliffs, which extend for over a mile and offer some of the most dramatic views in the Capital Region. That man suffered critical injuries, but survived — and authorities said the time that survival was rare.
“Fortunate for us, we have a very robust rescue team,” Apple said. “It’s great to see all the training and hard work we put into this come out with a successful rescue…To the rescuers, hats off, they did a great job, this is really difficult terrain.”