Friends, Family Talk About the Man Who Jumped 33 Floors to His Death

Brother, son, friend, star athlete. Zal Chapgar was battling depression.

*This story was published in 2009

The young man who busted through a banquet window of the Loews Hotel on Monday, falling 33 floors to his death, was a star athlete, a big thinker, a young and passionate guy who battled depression and mental illness.

23-year old Zal Chapgar graduated from Wissahickon High in 2003.

THis family and friends talked about how desperately they’d tried to save him, but because he was an adult, their ability to help find the treatment he needed was limited, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Quotes on Zal’s life from family and friends:

"…he scored 1589 on his SATs," recalled Emily Kohler, one of Chapgar's childhood friends. "He would always challenge you to think, and was absolutely one of the smartest people I've ever known, or probably ever will know."

"I had at least one foot on him," said Jeff Perrone, who is 6-foot-5. "And I'd drive him crazy when we played one-on-one basketball. But he still caught on me sometimes."

"I was convinced this kid would be a lawyer," said Steven Kohler, his former Cub Scout master. "He could debate the color of a brown bag. And win."

"He always believed," she said, "in a better world," said his mom, Kerban Chapgar.

Tuesday brought a few more details about the man who ended his life so purposefully and dramatically -- jumping 33 floors to his death from the Loews Hotel -- in Center City.

The man, whom police identified as a 23-year-old resident of Blue Bell, Montgomery County, apparently had taken the elevator to the 33rd floor - the top floor - of the Loews Philadelphia Hotel on the southwest corner, according to The Daily News.

He broke a window in one of the banquet rooms, police said, and plunged nearly 500 feet to the sidewalk, ending his life.

The man narrowly missed a woman pushing a child in a stroller, witnesses said. She jumped out of the way and screamed.

His body landed with such force that it bounced up before landing, and people stared in shock, said Jamye Davis, a witness who called 9-1-1.

It happened about 9:45am. The hotel is located at 12th and Market.

Melissa Dribben's article on gave an interesting perspective on people's reactions to such a horrible event:

A passerby positioned himself to get a good view of the body and snapped a photo on his cell phone. "Yo!" came an angry voice from the crowd. "Show some respect, man!"

"He jumped from up there," several onlookers said, pointing skyward and cranking their heads back as far as they could to see the sharp line where the 33-story building confronted the morning's fast-moving clouds.

"It's a white dude," someone said. She could tell from the clenched fist and the foot, with a sock dangling off the toes, that lay exposed, protruding at an unnatural angle.

From the rise in the sheet, they guessed he was heavyset. And a few witnesses said his hair was peppered gray. The wind tugged stubbornly at the makeshift shroud, but the man's white sneakers -- had they fallen off during his descent? Did someone take them off? -- kept it tethered to the concrete.

"I saw something coming down," said Mary Frame, a 49-year-old housewife from the Northeast, who was walking north on 12th Street just before 10 a.m., when she witnessed the man's last sentient seconds. "Man, he hit the ground. You could hear the thump a block away."

Police were interviewing witnesses at the scene around 11am, according to emails coming into NBCPhiladelphia from office workers in that same area. Police did tell NBC10 news that the man's death was a suicide.

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