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Here’s how the 19-hour San Rafael-Richmond Bridge closure ended

A Southern Marin Fire District firefighter works with a rope line Saturday to help recover a person from underneath lower Richmond-San Rafael Bridge lower-deck lanes. | | Source: Courtesy Southern Marin Fire District

Two days after a 19-hour standoff on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge brought eastbound traffic to a standstill, officials have provided new information on the situation.

An unnamed man was eventually retrieved from the underside of the closed bridge deck after a rope rescue, officials said Monday. He is now receiving treatment at a mental-health facility posed multiple challenges to various agencies who worked for the better part of a day to rescue him.

According to a statement, the California Highway Patrol said officers with its Marin station responded at around 11:40 a.m. on Friday to reports of a man climbing onto a railing along the upper-deck bicycle lane near center of the span. Initial reports said the man had ridden a bicycle onto the bridge. 

When officers arrived, they found him on the outside railing and began negotiating with him to return to the road. But he made his way onto nearby support beams and clambered down to the lower deck. Moments later, eastbound drivers called 911 to report the man running across traffic lanes. 

Officers then briefly blocked all eastbound lanes. When they reopened them, the man emerged and began running across traffic “in an attempt to get hit by passing vehicles, causing officers to stop traffic again,” CHP said.

Soon after, the man began climbing over the lower deck’s railing onto the under-structure, at which point officers summoned a negotiations team with CHP’s Golden Gate Division.

Officers then closed all eastbound lanes to traffic, citing the man’s precarious position and their inability to negotiate with him as vehicular traffic flowed just feet away.

After hours of negotiation, including a period when officers lost contact with the man, a group of 20 Southern Marin Fire District specialists carried out a technical rope rescue at around 6:50 a.m. Saturday, bringing the man back to safety. CHP officers accompanied a San Rafael Fire Department ambulance that took the man to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

Officers began reopening eastbound lanes shortly after 7 a.m., with all lanes reopened by 8 a.m. Westbound traffic over the upper span was never blocked during the response. There were no reported injuries to firefighters or police.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the incident. Anyone with information is asked to call the Marin office at 415-924-1100.