Tim Turney of Port Angeles leans against the rail of the west Eighth Street Bridge, near where he pulled a woman off the rail of the bridge. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Tim Turney of Port Angeles leans against the rail of the west Eighth Street Bridge, near where he pulled a woman off the rail of the bridge. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles man pulls suicidal woman on bridge to safety

PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man who pulled a suicidal woman from the fence on the western Eighth Street Bridge is credited with saving her life.

“I’m very glad that the citizen intervened,” said Deputy Chief Jason Viada of the Port Angeles Police Department.

Viada said police received a call at about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday that a citizen had pulled the woman from the fence of the bridge. When police arrived about two minutes later a group of people had the woman restrained.

Viada said that, although officers arrived as quickly as they could, “if not for the intervention of the citizens, it might have been too late.”

Commotion on bridge

Tim Turney of Port Angeles said when he was driving home from work and saw commotion on the bridge, he knew what to do. He said traffic was stopped and a group of people were trying to talk the woman — who had one leg straddled over the 4-foot-6-inch rail — out of jumping.

“She turned to say something to a girl who was trying to talk her down, and in that second I saw she was distracted and quietly jogged up and … pulled her down and held her until police officers arrived,” he said.

Turney said he and others at the scene were trying to comfort her. Some said they understood her situation.

Turney said he and others needed to hold her for only about two minutes before officers arrived.

It was the first time he had been in a situation like this, he said, but he knew he couldn’t stand by and let it happen.

“I guess I owe some credit to my parents for raising me that way,” he said.

Turney said he was told after the incident that what he did was dangerous, but he doesn’t believe it was.

“It didn’t enter my mind because you can’t think of those things,” he said. “If you always think that in life, you’re never going to do anything.”

Viada said the woman was transported to Olympic Medical Center (OMC) in Port Angeles for an evaluation.

He said statistics from November 2016 through November 2017 show that PAPD responded to suicide attempts or threats about once every 32 hours.

In these cases police transport the suicidal person to OMC’s emergency room where the person is seen by a mental health professional.

In most cases the person is released a few hours later.

“Officers are able to get them through the immediate crisis, but after that there’s a gap in the system.”

This incident underscores the need for higher barriers on both of the bridges, Turney said. He said too many people have died by jumping from either of the two bridges.

Eight people have jumped to their deaths since the bridges reopened in 2009 with 4-foot, 6-inch railings. Half of those deaths have occurred since June 2017.

In April the Port Angeles City Council awarded a $770,000 contract to Interwest Construction, Inc. of Sequim to build an 8- to 9-foot-tall fence on both sides of the 100-foot-tall spans over Tumwater and Valley Creeks.

The new fencing will have an undulating top to resemble waves or mountains. It will be supported by aluminum posts attached to the outside of the existing 32-inch concrete barriers.

The project is in response to the public outcry that followed the death of 15-year-old Ashley Wishart in November. The most recent suicide from either of the bridges was in March, after the city council had agreed to move forward with the fencing project.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected]nsuladailynews.com.

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