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Good Samaritans in Saint John rescue dismayed with bystanders

07/17/2013 01:42 EDT | Updated 09/16/2013 05:12 EDT
Two people who helped save a woman's life on a Saint John bridge are troubled by the number of people who watched the dramatic rescue, but didn't help.

Jane Foster and Kurt Delaney found themselves struggling to hold a woman as she dangled from the Reversing Falls Bridge Monday night and waiting for help from the police — while others simply watched.

"I could see people in their passenger seats just kind of looking at us," Foster said. "I was wishing for at least one more person, because the two of us — I don't think we could have held her."

Driving home from work Monday night, Foster she saw the woman standing on the wrong side of the bridge. She got out of her car to help and signalled for another driver to call the police.

"She was all shaky. I tried to get her to come on my side of the bridge and she kept saying no and 'My arm's broken, don't touch me' and stuff," Foster said.

Delaney, meanwhile, was driving on a street with a view of the bridge when he saw the drama unfolding.

"I thought maybe someone had climbed over as a joke and had maybe frozen up and couldn't get back over," he said. "Everything pretty much played through my mind. I thought to myself, I'm probably doing what everyone else is doing: sitting here and contemplating all these different things when really I should go and see what's going on."

He left his car and ran past a long line of cars stopped because of the incident. When he reached her, Foster was holding the woman's wrist. Delaney grabbed the other wrist.

Clinging over the edge

"We could see her going from the standing position to the sitting position, holding on. And I said, 'Grab her, let's grab her.' And once the siren's really close, she lets her feet go. And I have one arm and he has another arm," Foster said.

Delaney heard the sirens approaching them — and so did the woman. "The person said, ‘I'm going to go,' and stepped out and her feet went," Delaney said.

"I held her by her left arm with both of my arms and [Foster] tried to hold her by her right arm and unfortunately could not hold on. I said there is no way I'm going to let her go and I held on for dear life."

Delaney bent his upper body over the bridge and clung to her arm as she dangled over the Saint John River. She told him her arm was broken, perhaps suggesting he let her fall.

Delaney held her for a minute or two before police arrived. An officer ordered him to lift her up. "I started to lift her up and he grabbed her," he said.

The two hauled her back over the rail. Police transported the woman to hospital, where she received care.

Too many spectators

"It was a good feeling. I was concerned [for her]," he said. "It's one thing to save someone who's about to fall off a bridge — it's another thing to save someone who wants to fall off the bridge. It's an odd feeling."

He said that may have paralyzed many of the other people watching. Others, he speculates, perhaps worried that approaching her too quickly would cause her to jump.

But he doesn't know why no one helped him once she had jumped. "I just don't understand. If you see someone hanging from a bridge like that, you need to act. Every second counts," he said.

Foster agreed: "I could see people in their passenger seats just kind of looking at us. I was wishing for at least one more person, because the two of us — I don't think we could have held her."

Gregory Zed is a specialist in suicide prevention at Horizon Health Network. He said people often freeze in such situations. He said a better course of action is to act as a first responder.

"While I cannot comment on this particular incident, I can say if you are calm, cool, collected and demonstrate a sense of caring, understanding, and focus on a solution, then you can bring literally anyone out of harm's way," he said.

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