Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Ajayvius
Don Ritchie, a resident of Sydney, Australia who stopped hundreds of people from jumping to their deaths from “the Gap”, an infamous cliff at Watsons Bay, has died of natural causes, according to the Australian Associated Press. Ritchie was 85.Ritchie happened to live just 50 meters from the notorious suicide spot. According to official estimates, Ritchie coaxed around 160 people back from the gap over over 50 years, but his family believe the number is closer to 500, according to The Telegraph.
His success earned him the nickname of “Angel of The Gap”, as well as numerous national awards like “Local Hero” in the 2011 Australian of the Year Awards, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
In his younger days, Ritchie would physically restrain people about to jump whilst his wife, Moya, called the police. In later years, he simply used compassion, asking would-be jumpers: “Is there something I could do to help you?” and promising them a cup of hot tea or a beer if they came off the cliff, according to ABC.net.au.
“Those who knew him knew he was a very strong person and a very capable person,” Ritchie’s daughter Sue told reporters.
Tributes poured in from all over the country. Federal MP Malcolm Turnbull, whose electorate includes the Gap, called Ritchie “A true hero, one of our greatest Australians. RIP,” while the Mayor of Woollahra, Susan Wynne, said his “courage delivered small miracles”.
Ritchie, born in 1926 in Vaucluse, served in the Royal Australian Navy during World War II and later as a life insurance salesman. He received gifts from people he’d saved, sometimes a decade or two later. “It’s important for troubled people to know that there are complete strangers out there, like myself, who are willing and able to help them get through that dark time and to come out on the other side,” he once said in an interview.
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