|Bridge Tender Saves Life|
Published: Friday, 08 June 2012 03:23
Gibson Douglas' quick action and intuitiveness save a man from committing suicide on the Fruitvale Bridge last Thursday, May 31.
Douglas, a bridge tender for Alameda County Public Works (ACPW) department for 13 years, said last Thursday was one of the most eventful days on the job he has ever had.
"I have seen some unusual things happen on the job," said Douglas, a resident of Oakland. "But nothing this potentially dangerous."
Douglas sat at his bridge tender post on the Fruitvale Bridge early Thursday morning and things seemed like any other work shift. That was until 4:15 a.m. when a suspicious car parked near the bridge. Douglas' suspicions grew when the car parked in the middle of the bridge minutes later.
Douglas approached the vehicle and told the guy to leave. "I said, 'you can't leave your car parked here; I'll have to report you,'" said Douglas. "But it was as if he didn't hear me. He was extremely drunk."
Douglas repeated himself, but the man began to cry. "He was telling me his life situation," said Douglas. "He said he suffered a 'serious personal loss,' then said 'I want to die.'"
Douglas immediately called 911, but the man exited his car and headed for the bridge fence that separated the road from the walkway. After making it over the first gate, Douglas quickly apprehended the man. "I started feeling a little panicky," said Douglas. " I didn't tackle the guy; it was more of a hug. I thought, if I could just hold him for some period of time until the police come, it will be all right."
Douglas, a Catholic, tried to reason with the man on a religious level because the man was Hispanic and shared Douglas' religion. "I said, 'our church says suicide is not good for our soul,' but I felt stupid saying that," said Douglas. So Douglas tried to evoke family into changing the guy's mind. "I asked him if his mother was still alive, he said yes, and I told him my mother isn't," said Douglas. "I said, 'you'll break her heart if you do this.' I think that helped calm him down."
"Police arrived on the scene and detained the man," said Lt. Ted Horlbeck, Alameda police public information officer. "If it wasn't for the bridge tender he might not be alive."
Though it is not ACPW's job to prevent suicides on its bridges, they do try to prevent them. "We try to help out the best we can and be a community resource," said Ken Segueira, bridge supervisor for APCW.
Douglas was just happy the man is still alive. "I put my job aside, I was just being a human being."