SMITHTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Suffolk County police officers saved the lives of three emotionally distressed women threatening to kill themselves atop the shuttered Kings Park Psychiatric Center as part of a suicide pact.
"It was very gratifying, no question, that we were able to save these three girls. Hopefully [they] will go on to lead a very good life," emergency service officer Tom Russo said.
The unidentified women were 17, 19 and 23 years old. One was intent on suicide, the others were encouraged to jump too, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported.
A friend's parent called 911 and a police chopper located them with infrared cameras.
"The girls had emerged on the ledge 13 floors up, and looked very agitated and appeared that they were going to jump," emergency service officer Jerry Sheridan said.
Officers raced through the maze-like crumbling building, crawling across broken floor boards to restrain and pin them down.
Then, the officers had to coax them down.
"We are relying on you to help us out here, we put the onus on them. They didn't want to hurt us, they wanted to hurt themselves," Sheridan said.
Contagious or cluster suicides are hard to prevent, according to Stony Brook Medicine's Dr. Gabrielle Carlson, because there aren't always warning signs.
"It is a phenomenon, and it's a very concerning phenomenon," she said. "For whatever reason, the other kids are sort of caught up in the drama of it, and they are the ones that are the most difficult to predict."
Carlson said parents should teach their teens to report any time a friend mentions suicide.
Parents should be on the lookout for: signs of depression, distinct changes in personality, unquestionable drops in grades, morbid activities, pessimism, and somatic or body complaints and ailments.
The suicide attempt is just the latest at Kings Park. The local fire chief said for years the community has been pressing the state to tear down the dangerous building, which is a magnet not only for suicides but vandals and gangs as well.
"It's such a problem with kids going down there, could be an accident any time," resident Stanley Warszycki said.
Police and the three young women had to be decontaminated after exposure to toxins.
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