Deception Pass ranger wrestles female bridge jumper to safety
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
November 5, 2011 · Updated 11:24 AM
As he wrestled with the woman in the northbound lane of Deception Pass Bridge, there were moments when Park Manager Jack Hartt wondered how this would turn out.
He’d caught the woman only moments before just as she was dragging her second leg over the railing and now they were engaged in a physical struggle for her life. Yelling into his little radio for help, Hartt held onto the squirming woman with everything he had but she was strong and fighting hard.
“She was far stronger than I expected,” he said. “I was just glad to keep her feet on the ground.”
Without a doubt in his mind, Hartt knew that if he lost his grip for even a second it would be all over. She’d hurl herself over the edge and be beyond his aid, falling 180-feet to the swirling waters below.
That was the scene on North Whidbey Tuesday afternoon when a 46-year-old Oak Harbor woman attempted to commit suicide by jumping from Deception Pass Bridge. Located within the park, the bridge is one of the most beautiful and popular parks in the state.
Unfortunately, it’s also a hot spot for people wanting to end their lives. According to Hartt, between two and three people commit suicide from the bridge every year. During his eight years at the helm, he’s talked down several would-be jumpers. However, this week’s incident was altogether different.
“This is the first time I’ve had to physically restrain someone,” he said. “It was so close.”
At approximately, 11:48 a.m., the woman was driving to Deception Pass when she called 911 and informed dispatchers of her plans. Hartt, who was at his office at the time, was alerted to the situation and jumped in his cruiser.
Waiting in the southern parking lot, it wasn’t long before the woman and car drove past. Pulling into traffic behind her, Hartt watched as the woman stopped mid-span. As he flipped on his lights, she hopped out of her car.
Following suit, he said it only took a second to see just how serious the woman was. Walking right up to the rail, she began to climb over and Hartt jumped into action. He just barely grabbed her in time.
“Half a second and she would have gone,” he said.
Although they wrestled for only about 30 seconds, Hartt said it felt like much longer. Strangely, he said he remembers people walking past and looking at their struggle without offering to help. Two finally came to his aid, however.
“A couple passersby asked if they could help and I said, ‘Please,’” Hartt recalled.
The three of them continued to hold the woman, who was still straining to get free, for about another minute before two more rangers arrived. It was only then that they managed to get total control of her.
Hartt said the woman was transported to Whidbey General Hospital via ambulance. Her current status, however, is unclear. Hospital spokeswoman Trish Rose said she had no information on that patient.
Hartt said he will likely never forget the incident and is grateful that he was able to help save the woman’s life. However, he said he’s not the sole hero, that the passersby and the host of emergency responders that assisted played just as vital a role.
“I happened to be there at the moment, but it’s a team effort,” Hartt said.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.