CAPE MAY — A man who climbed the water tower at the U.S. Coast Guard base finally came down around 2 a.m., 14 hours after he climbed up.
The man, whose name will not be released for around 24 hours, climbed the tower without authorization about noon Thursday, said Coast Guard Lt. Kate McHenry.
Further details were not available and the incident remains under investigation, McHenry said Friday morning.
Authorities had re-established contact with the man Thursday night after a period when he was no longer communicating with officials on the ground.
The man was described by officials as active-duty with the Coast Guard but not a recruit at a base that runs a Coast Guard boot camp.
After being in contact throughout much of the day, the man could not be seen and there was no activity from about 7:20 p.m. until 7:42 p.m., when an official on a bullhorn called to the man, trying to make verbal contact.
"Listen up, Mike. Mike, let's not mess around," the official said. "I need you to sit up so I can see you. OK? Mike, I need you to sit up."
By 8:05 p.m., officials were in contact with him again.
The man was at a platform 130 feet up on the 165-foot water tower. Both the local police and Coast Guard police were on the scene.
“Our primary concern is the safety, health and well-being of the member. We’re hoping for a positive resolution to the situation. He’s responding. He’s talking to law enforcement people here,” McHenry said Thursday.
A helicopter circled the water tower just before 8:30 p.m. as officials tried to get a visual on him.
"He's one of our people. He's family. We want him to be well," McHenry said. "We had him out of view for some time. From our vantage point if he is sitting down or lies down we can't see him."
The man had been walking around the 360-degree platform, occasionally gesturing to emergency response personnel and onlookers. At one point he requested items, which the Coast Guard provided via a "rope system," McHenry said.
The man was also seen throwing pieces of paper to the ground.
Loved ones were brought in to talk to the man, McHenry said. And a professional negotiator with the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office has been talking with him for more than five hours.
A few Coast Guard members and their families filtered out of nearby housing to watch, some with binoculars.
The base has about 2,000 personnel including active-duty Coast Guard, recruits going through an eight-week training program and civilian employees. Besides hosting Training Center Cape May, the base also has other functions including a small-boat station, aids to navigation, fire department and VA Clinic.
Cape May police, Coast Guard police, Wildwood police, and officers from the Cape May County Sheriff's Department and the county SWAT Team responded to the scene.
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