“I got down on my knees and pleaded with him. ‘Brah, don’t do this, we can fix it’, I told him.”
These are the recollections of Inspector Uzair Thomas, a heroic Cape Town Law Enforcement officer who was quick to react when he spotted a distressed man staring off the edge of a bridge crossing the N2 on Tuesday 22 September.
The suicidal man was on the brink of taking his life when the observant Thomas intervened, ultimately pulling the distraught man from the abyss and saving his life.
Cape Town officer intervenes to prevent suicide attempt
Speaking to The South African, 29-year-old Thomas explained the events that unfolded, which were partly captured on film from the N2 entering Cape Town that runs below the bridge, could have gone very differently had he not decided to stop and engage the man.
“I was on duty making my way to Delft area. I saw the gentlemen on the barrier and I noticed there were two bags on the floor. I told my partner ‘something doesn’t look right here, this guy looks strange’,” he said.
Thomas approached the man, asking what he was doing.
“I shouted at him to get his attention. I asked him ‘what’s up?” Get down!’ We were told by the control room to get away in case he jumps. Eventually I got his attention. He said he was going to jump.”
“His eyes were red because he was hysterical and crying. I told him to come down, tried to negotiate, but it wasn’t working. We didn’t know what to do. This is the first time I had been one-on-one with someone about to commit suicide like this,” he said.
‘I pleaded with him to get down’ – Cape Town officer
Thomas said that he did everything in his power to prevent the man from taking his own life.
“He looked back at me and I went down on my knees, removed my hat, put my hands in prayer, and told him everything is going to fine. He then sat and I stayed on my knees while I negotiated with him.”
Thomas said what made him then go over the edge of the bridge was a sense of being overwhelmed by the mounting crowds atop the bridge. “That pushed him more to want to jump,” he said.
“I told my partner to get the cars away but suddenly he slipped over the edge and was holding on for dear life.”
‘Everything is going to be alright’
At this stage, nobody knew what had pushed the man to the point of no return. It was later revealed that his wife had engaged in an extramarital affair, and that he had just emerged from a taxing divorce that left his family broken. At the time, Thomas could only react swiftly to prevent a tragic death.
“I ran for him, and saw his eyes through the barrier. I could see the fear in his eyes, he wanted help. He was hanging from his fingertips,” recounted Thomas, who said that he summoned an unknown strength to hold on to the man’s wrists as he dangled precariously from the highest bridge in the city.
“I held on to him, I don’t know where I got the power from. I don’t know if it was adrenaline, or what.”
Using all his might, and with a crowd having dashed to assist him, Thomas hauled the man to safety, at which point both men embraced each other and shared overwhelming relief.
“I hugged him so hard, I felt a massive sense of relief. I thought what if he had slipped before I got there? That picture would have hurt me forever. I told him, ‘everything is going to be fine, brother’.”
Man to receive support and counselling from SAPS
As much as law enforcement officers put themselves in the line of duty and face of danger on a frequent basis, they are seldom forced to engage in such a dramatic and sensitive situation. Thomas is acutely aware of this.
“I never expected myself to be in that situation, you usually see that in the movies. I’m just glad I could help and that the man has another chance.”
Thomas said that his work is about more than responding to incidents, and said that he is proud that his proactive nature was put to use, and that he was able to save the man’s life.
He said that the man will now receive counselling, with SAPS assisting to provide him with support so that he can move on with his life in pursuit of happiness.
Suicide helplines and support in South Africa
For others affected by suicide or attempted suicide, the emotional impact can last for many years. And for those of you struggling with your mental health, please be aware that you can use any of these professional services listed below, free of charge. Both the South African Depression and Anxiety Group and Lifeline can give you the support you need:
- SADAG Day Helpline: 0800 21 22 23 (8:00 to 20:00)
- SADAG Night Helpline: 0800 12 13 14 (20:00 to 8:00)
- Lifeline: 0861 322 322 (24 hours)
- Or send an SMS for support: 31393
Read the original article on The South African