When Denise Mitchell, a local mother of five, drove by the young man clutching the railing on the Whites Canyon Road bridge, she feared the worst.
The young man who threatened to end his life early Monday evening by jumping from the bridge was rescued by Good Samaritans and first responders, then was taken to the hospital.
It might have ended differently if Mitchell and other Good Samaritans had kept driving.
She was the first to pass him on the bridge in the seconds before he made his move.
“He walked up to the railing and looked over and I thought, ‘It looks like he’s going to jump,’ and I looked back and said, ‘Oh shoot, he jumped on top of it.’”
Mitchell, who was in the car with her adult daughter and two young girls going to dinner, suddenly made a U-turn on the bridge.
She drove up next to the young man, now standing on the railing, she said.
“I said, ‘Honey, don’t do that,’ and he looked at me. He was very distraught and then he started to go over,” Mitchell said.
At that point, she told her daughter to call 911.
“My daughter was freaking out, my granddaughter was freaking out. I pulled over a little in front of him and he was already on the other side (of the bridge).
“I kept talking. I said, ‘Honey, you have something to live for.’”
With no place to pull over, Mitchell made another U-turn to catch up with the would-be jumper a second time.
“I said, ‘You have to get down. There’s something you need to live for.’ And then I said, ‘Come to dinner with us,’” she said, noting she didn’t know what else to say.
“At that point, he turned around and he was facing me. He put his feet in the bottom (of the railing) and then he went upside down. As I talked to him, he wasn’t responding.
“I wanted to get out of the car but there was nowhere to park there. Me talking to him was almost making it worse. But they (Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station) deputies were there in less than a minute.”
Before anyone arrived, Mitchell said she was honking her car to get people’s attention. She saw at least three men run to the young man’s aid.
Three good Samaritans — Steve Mendez, Robert Santiago and Jose Gutierrez — were the first ones to physically get to the man in the few seconds ahead of first responders.
“I noticed this guy was attempting to jump off this bridge,” Mendez said. “I quickly came out of my vehicle.”
The three men ran to the shirtless young man, believed to be his 20’s, hanging precariously on the outside of the bridge, poised over traffic.
“I kind of pushed him back, grabbed him by his armpits and pulled him up,” Mendez said.
“The gentleman behind me in the striped shirt (Gutierrez), he grabbed rope from the other gentleman (Santiago) who loaned it to us.”
Working together, the three men wrapped the rope around the waist of the would-be jumper.
“We wrapped it twice around him, tied it around the bars here,” Mendez said. “And, we were waiting there until the (Los Angeles County) Fire Department came by.”
Those few seconds proved crucial – the seconds Mitchell encountered the man, tried to talk him down and called 911, and the seconds the three men worked to secure the man to the bridge.
“We did not let him go,” Mendez said. “He would have (killed) himself.”
Asked why he ran to help save the life of a stranger, Mendez said: “I had a couple of friends pass away from suicide.”
“It’s sad to see a young person just take away their life,” he said. “I hope he gets the best help he can, (and) his family gets together and helps him out.”
The would-be jumper was rescued and pulled to safety by firefighters. The man, whose identity has not been released, was taken to the hospital for a “72-hour hold” during which time he would be assessed.
Deputies Jorge Garcia and Jacob Royston of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station were the first to arrive on the scene, and helped secure the individual, said Shirley Miller, spokeswoman for the station.
The men could be seen holding the man on the bridge by his shirt as firefighters had deployed airbags below, said L.A. County Fire Department dispatcher Ed Pickett.
Firefighters from Fire Station 107 arrived on the scene to an already growing group that was trying to talk the man down.
A firefighter was ultimately strapped to an aerial ladder, and that firefighter helped the man down. He was later taken to an area hospital.
All area traffic on Whites Canyon Road was temporarily shut down, including a Metrolink train that was stopped by emergency officials.
Traffic resumed shortly after 8 p.m.
Anyone with concerns about their mental health can text 741741 and then type in a request for help, and someone will call them back right away, said Larry Schallert, assistant director of COC’s Student Health & Wellness Center. “There’s also the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on how to survive suicide loss.”
For loss survivors, they mention the following advice, according to its website:
“Find a support group: You don’t have to cope with your loss alone. There are support groups specifically for those who have lost a loved one to suicide.
Do what feels right to you: Don’t feel pressured to talk right away. If you choose to discuss your loss, speaking can give your friends and family the opportunity to support you in an appropriate way.
Write: You may find it helpful to write your feelings or to write a letter to your lost loved one. This can be a safe place for you to express some of the things you were not able to say before the death.
Ask for help: Don’t be afraid to let your friends provide support to you, or to look for resources in your community such as therapists, co-workers, or family members.”
Schallert noted there’s always a ripple effect, and it’s important that the community tries to support so everyone can survive it and avoid “clusters” or someone who might try to imitate that action.
Mental Health and other resources for the Santa Clarita Valley