Man desperately seeks fate of man he saved from East River suicide


He’s a sad Samaritan.

An Upper East Side hero and his family are desperately seeking to learn what happened to a man he helped save from suicide on the banks of the East River Thursday night.

Don Varn, 72, was walking on the East River promenade around 5 p.m. at the end of East 78th Street when he saw a grief-stricken man standing on the wrong side of the waterfront railing. Varn stopped to talk with the man, a move that helped save his life.

“My dad sat and cried with this young man and has not been able to sleep or stop thinking about if he’s OK,” his daughter, Lauren Varn Karr wrote Friday on Facebook. “My dad is really desperate to know if this young man is OK.”

The desperate man, who said his name was Alex, told Varn he was distraught over the loss of his partner to suicide three years earlier, on Nov. 3, 2018.

“I thought he was taking photos with his phone, but when I got closer I could see the tears dripping down his nose,” said Varn. “I think he was texting his last goodbyes. I knew something was very wrong. He was just shaking, he was shaking like crazy.”

Varn was stunned by a bond he shared with the stranger — he lost his best friend of more than 50 years the very same day.

Avery Bailey was Varn’s college roommate, and they “talked every day.” In fact, it was because of the anniversary of Bailey’s death a day earlier that Varn changed his routine Thursday. Instead of his usual evening stroll to Central Park, he walked down to the river to contemplate memories of his lifelong friend.

Don Varr
Like the man he helped, Varn has also lost a loved one to suicide.
J.C. Rice

“I was in the right place at the right time,” Varn said. “I told (Alex) there’s a whole lot of love left in the world. His partner wouldn’t want this for him, just like Avery wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to me.”

After nearly 30 minutes, Varn and another Good Samaritan talked Alex off the river’s edge and called 911 for help.

“I was shocked by the speed of the response,” Varn said. “Before I knew it they had boats in the river and a helicopter overhead.”

An NYPD official said the situation had been defused by the time first responders arrived.

“He’s a hero, a modern-day hero,” the police source said. “He did a really good job.”

Varn deflected the credit, saying the real hero was a woman named Theresa who was able to speak to the desperate man in both English and Spanish.

“She was a Godsend,” said Varn. “She explained to him that we all get depressed, that we all get lonely. She had a very calming effect on him.”

The suicidal man, identified by cops as a 31-year-old Manhattan resident, was taken to nearby New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center for observation. His condition remains unknown.

“As soon as they took him away, I broke down and started crying like a baby,” Varn said.

Melissa Klein contributed to this report.

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