Ryan John Hartley R.I.P.



HOUSTON -- A man who scaled halfway up one of Houston's best-known skyscrapers using only a small pick jumped about 30 stories to his death Monday morning, authorities said.

Ryan John Hartley, 20, was about halfway up the 64-story Williams Tower when he leaped at about 7:45 a.m., Houston Fire Department spokesman Jay Evans said.

Police recovered a driver's license and a note containing a message of a political nature. Authorities have declined to reveal details of the note, other than to say it did not mention plans to jump.

News2Houston reported that there were three notes discovered on Hartley, which spoke of religion, politics and specific problems with Iraq.

The Harris County Medical Examiner's Office ruled his death a suicide Monday.

Some Houstonians, who watched reports of the incident on television, said Tuesday that they were shocked and wondered why Hartley did what he did.

"It was public suicide," Houstonian Charles Simmons said. "Anytime that you have someone killing (themselves) in public that's obviously going to cause a stir. He obviously got out of it what he was looking to get out of it."

Hartley attended the University of Houston, having transferred from the University of Texas this fall semester, said Michael Cinelli, a spokesman for the Houston school.

Hartley had rosin to apply to his hands, and used the pick on the window molding as he moved higher, authorities said. But he apparently did not have a harness, belt or suction cup, "the normal professional equipment you'd normally see on someone trying to climb a building," Evans said.

Police received the first call about Hartley at 6:53 a.m. Monday. Evans said Hartley had somehow reached the outside of the building from the 10th floor and then climbed up the southwest corner from there.

Rescue personnel and a crowd of onlookers had gathered below, television helicopters hovered above and motorists from the West Loop freeway, the busiest in Texas, all had a view of the black-clad Hartley as he climbed and fell.

Chris Seay, pastor of Hartley's church, Ecclesia of Houston, released a statement from the family.

"Ryan was an accomplished rock climber and instructor as well as a gifted vocalist and student at U of H," the statement said. "He was seeing a psychologist for an undiagnosed mental disorder. The family is grieving and thankful for your thoughts and prayers."

Police tried to talk to Hartley from an open window but he continued to ascend. Witness Pat McGarey, a tower worker, said Hartley was yelling or singing and periodically waved his hands before taking an extended pause.

"It clearly looked like he jumped as opposed to falling," McGarey said.

The art deco-inspired skyscraper, formerly known as the Transco Tower, was built in 1983 and is known for the floodlight beacon at its top. It was designed by architect Philip Johnson.


Oh man, what injustice. I can picture it now:

VANCOUVER - ArdArvin, an accomplished rock climber, jumped 30 stories to his death early this morning. Local authorities ruled the death a suicide.

"ArdArvin scaled a little more than halfway up the 45 story One Wall Centre, before leaping to his death," says VPD spokesperson Anne Drennen.

No suicide note was found, although upon searching the man's apartment, various emails of political nature were found. In one email, ArdArvin claims that the war in Iraq was unwarranted.

Ardarvin wore climbing shoes, had rosin to apply to his hands, and used a camming device for resting. However, lacking a suction cup, he was not using the normal professional equipment one normally uses when trying to climb a building.

Before falling, onlookers observed ArdArvin yelling or possibly singing loudly, shaking violently, and taking an extended pause. "Truly bizarre behavior," says Drennen. He then jumped.

Ardarvin was not diagnosed with any mental disorder, however friends claimed his behaviour was "not normal. I mean, look at what he did for fun. He played video games and listened to rap music."

The One Wall Centre was built in 2001. It is the first skyscraper to violate Vancouver's height restriction bylaw, making it the tallest building in Vancouver. It is affectionately .

This makes me sick. I wasn't there, so I can't say for certain what happened, but reading this article raises significant doubts on the validity of the suicide ruling.

Who plans to commit suicide, but brings chalk, climbing shoes, and an aid hook for resting? The only evidence of suicide is an eye witness account that claims he jumped. Well here's a quote from another newspaper, "'He didn't have (any) energy left it looked like,' witness Pat Osborne said. 'He looked to the left and looked to the right and just pushed off.'"

I'm guessing he ran out of steam, realized all hope was gone, and then either let go or pushed off. "He obviously got out of it what he was looking to get out of it." -- Charles Simmons, you're a dick. Have a little respect.

Poll ending Mar 06, 2003

Did Ryan Hartley commit suicide?
No 63.3% - 45 Votes
Yes 36.6% - 26 Votes

Correct Answer: ??? (but no)

I guess we'll just never know completely. But I'd definitely lean towards it being an accident. Here was a 20 yr old kid enjoying life more fully than most of us ever will. Perhaps his "undiagnosed mental disorder" was a taste for adrenaline?

Jan 22, 2003


13crow's picture

01 December 2011

I know this is years too late, but I have to put this out there. I was there that day, I was working in the building that morning. In fact, Ryan reached to right below my window and I would see him and he could see me. We all cheered him on, sometimes going outside to see how high he was reaching. We pounded on the windows to get his attention and give him the thumbs up sign. He didn't commit suicide, the police are stupid. No one goes through all that trouble to get on a building that is secured, then climb up the side using all of your might just to jump off. Hell, you can ride the elevator up father than he climbed and you could take a running start at a windo if you wanted to kill yourself. I even confronted an officer and told them what I witnessed, even told a reporter. None of them printed what I told them had happened from just a few feet away, instead they told the story from a guy somewhere across the street on top of a scaffolding using a rudementary mangifying device to see what the hell was going on. Ryan had so much determination, so much spark in his eyes. He was absolutely going for the top of the building. What happened? He cut his hand, badly. You could see him grimmace as he tried to inch farther and farther up the side. Blood was all over his hands. He would take breaks that lasted longer and longer. He was using a hook or something that was tied to a small string or rope that he would hold on to with his teeth, so it would free up his hands so he could give them a rest. He was using chalk to get a grip, but it wasn't enough. Somewhere along the way he cut his hands, I guess all that glass had more than one purpose. He was devistated. You could see at this point he was losing his confidence. He was starting to look scared. I bet he was really disappointed at that moment and couldn't face the defeat. I am told that if you are a rock climber and you start to lose your hold, you have to jump out the softest thing you can find in order to reduce the possibility of injury. I honestly think this is what he did, he pushed away from the building so he wouldn't hit every level on the way down. He got to the point where he couldn't go up and he couldn't go down and the sheer knowledge that his reality was what it was and he couldn't bear it. He just pushed away with all his strength and disappeared into the sky. I had to go home after that, I couldn't stay knowing some poor sap just lost his life. The next day I did return to work and there was a huge dent in the grass where his broken body had once lied. I really was hoping he would had made it that day. I had bad dreams of that day that lasted for months, even longer. So no, he didn't commit suicide. It was just the worst day a climber could have had.

ardarvin's picture

01 December 2011

13crow. Thank you so much for sharing this. Even though it's doubtful anyone who knew Ryan personally will read this, you are doing his memory a great justice. When we're gone, all we leave is our legacy, and to have someone falsely claim you went out with a suicide is beyond criminal.

kiell's picture

01 December 2011

Incredible post. And not too late. Thank you.

kiell's picture

01 December 2011

For what it's worth, if you Google Ryan's name, this thread is top of the list.

wonderrobin's picture

02 December 2011

I knew Ryan personally - we were in choirs together in high school. This is really helpful to know. I was always pretty confused and my friend (his from-cradle-childhood friend) was devastated and dealing with her own mental diagnosis at the time. Thank you.

kiell's picture

02 December 2011

Ard: I've never edited a wikipedia page before so figured you might be the best person to do it:

To me it seems appropriate to give some sort of mention of this thread in order to counter the assertion that it was suicide. A small thing but worthwhile, I feel.

Deadsy83's picture

08 May 2012

Hi all-
Ryan was a close friend of mine when we were at UT Austin. The summer before his accident he lived with my family. We celebrated his last birthday together. And sadly, I found out about his death a week after the fact. Ryan was a special person. I know he didn't commit suicide. He was on a mission that went awry. I always had the sense that he was just "passing through." And move on, he did.
All these years later, I still find myself perusing pages like this. I think it's because I didn't get to say goodbye. I can't believe he has been gone almost ten years. I'm not even sure why I'm posting here. I suppose this offers a medium for me to remember a great friend named Ryan Hartley, to recapture a bit of his fascinating and electric presence. I miss him very much.