A visitor told PEOPLE on Monday she'd just been discussing her concerns over the structure's safety precautions when she learned about the incident

By Rachel DeSantis and Nick Maslow
February 03, 2020 05:32 PM
Gary Hershorn/Getty

On this sunny Monday at New York City’s The Vessel at Hudson Yards, tourists and locals alike climbed the steps of the hulking, honeycomb-like structure with selfie sticks in hand and posed for pictures below with smiles on their faces and dogs on their laps.

The sights were as normal as can be, especially considering just two days earlier the 150-foot-tall Vessel was the scene of tragedy after a 19-year-old college freshman leaped to his death.

The teen — identified by the New York Post as Peter DeSalvo — jumped from the structure around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, a spokesperson for the NYPD confirmed to PEOPLE.

The Sacred Heart University freshman was transported to Bellevue Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the spokesperson said.

Though just about 48 hours have gone by, those who witnessed the fatal plunge are still grappling with its effects, and employees were being offered help on how to process the incident in a Monday afternoon meeting, one worker at the Vessel told PEOPLE.

A spokesperson for Hudson Yards confirmed that the staff has access to grief counselors and told PEOPLE in a statement they are “continuously working” on safety.

“We have security and operations staff on Vessel at all times, including at the entrance and on various levels, and are continuously working closely with local emergency response agencies to further institute best practices with the safety of our guests in mind,” the spokesperson said.

Peter DeSalvo

Still, the incident shocked some visitors, who told PEOPLE they wondered why greater security measures weren’t in place to prevent such incidents in the first place.

Michele Kennedy, a New York-based artist, visited on Monday with a friend. Though she hadn’t heard about Saturday’s tragedy, she said she wasn’t surprised.

“I was looking up there and I said [to my friend], ‘I can’t believe they let people hang over like that,’ ‘cause we were waving up,” she said. “I said, ‘Someone’s gonna jump, somebody’s gonna die.’ And he got really mad at me… But it’s true.”

Lisa Wong, meanwhile, visited the Vessel on Monday with her mother, Wai Chung, after hearing about DeSalvo’s death on the news.

Peter DeSalvo

“Our concern was if it was closed because of a police investigation or something, so we came to see,” the Queens, New York resident said.

She did not enter the structure, but her mother did, though she said she did not fear for her safety during the climb, and was spooked only by a fear of heights.

As a worker on the site confirmed to PEOPLE, the Vessel, which opened in March, was evacuated on Saturday following the incident. Visitors were “really quiet” as they walked down the steps, witness Marita Salkowski of Kentucky told the Post.

“Some people had tears in their eyes. My daughter and I went over to the side and said a prayer for him,” she said.

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Salkowski’s husband, Peter, told The New York Times he’d spoken with a man who’d attempted to stop DeSalvo from jumping to no avail.

Ethan Fain, a childhood friend of DeSalvo’s, told the Times the Basking Ridge, New Jersey native was passionate about rugby and football and “loved to tell jokes.”

“He is seemingly the most unlikely of cases for suicide,” his former rugby coach Simon Perry told the Post. “He was doing great in school. He was playing rugby at Sacred Heart. I’m going to ask to have Pete’s jersey retired.”

“Our deepest sympathies are with the family of the person who lost their life last evening,” a spokeswoman for Hudson Yards told the Times in a previous statement. “We have no further comment at this time.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.