Police rescue man hanging from bridge Motorists help thwart suicide

November 16, 1992|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff Writer

Two Anne Arundel County police officers and several motorists saved a 20-year-old man hanging from an Edgewater bridge from plunging 70 feet to his death in the South River's bone-chilling waters yesterday morning.

The incident began at 10:15 a.m. when a caller told 911 operators that a man in a tan pickup truck was driving back and forth across the bridge. The caller told operators that he thought the man was thinking of suicide.

When Officers Brent Weaver and Sonny Pentz arrived moments later, they spotted the man at the peak of the bridge in the northbound lanes. When he saw the officers, he jumped out of his truck and, the officers said, practically "cartwheeled" over guardrails atop the Jersey barrier at the bridge's edge.

"His feet were up in the air," Officer Pentz said, describing how the man had thrown himself over the guardrails as if he were running from someone and trying to escape by jumping over a fence.

"I expected to hear or see the splash," Officer Weaver said. "But as I got close to the spot, I could hear him saying, 'Don't come near me.' "

The man's arm had gotten caught between the two guardrails, breaking his jump. Now, he was hanging on to the ledge with one hand and untangling his other arm from the guardrails.

"He was just hanging there," Officer Weaver said.

By now, both officers were within 5 feet of the man and Officer Weaver -- who has been a police officer for barely a year and has never been in a similar situation -- started to talk him out of letting go of the ledge.

"I just kept telling him we could work things out another way, that nothing was worth dying for," he said.

As Officer Weaver held the man's attention, Officer Pentz sneaked up on him by crawling on the ground along the side of the Jersey barrier until he got to the spot where the man was hanging.

"I got to the point where I could see his hand, and I grabbed his wrist," Officer Pentz said. "Officer Weaver grabbed his right arm, and we just held on."

But the 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pound man, whose name police would not disclose, fought them by kicking and thrashing around, making it difficult for the officers to maintain their grip.

"He had a nylon jacket on and it kept slipping," Officer Weaver said. "We just started screaming for help."

About five motorists saw the officers, who by then were almost hanging half way over the bridge railing. One of them managed to grab the man's leg as he kicked in the air, and they all hoisted the man over the guardrail.

"It was teamwork," Officer Pentz said. "It was absolutely perfect between us."

And, they say, they could not have done it without the passers-by who helped them when they really needed it.

The man was taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center where he was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, police said.

He told the officers he had work and family problems.

"I really felt bad for this guy," said Officer Pentz, who has been a police officer for 12 years. "This was the first time I've really had to save someone's life. It felt good; it really did."

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