Woman rescued from Mississippi River bridge following suicide attempt
BATON ROUGE – Westbound traffic on the Mississippi River bridge came to a halt Thursday evening when a woman exited her vehicle and jumped over the railing.
“I think she had went to go jump and she kind of second-guessed herself and went to go to grab the rail and then I think she just landed on a beam. Just wasn’t her time to go,” said Austin Hebert, a firefighter with the Port Allen Fire Department.
The beam the woman landed on was about 10 feet below the point she jumped from. It wasn’t long before a crowd formed along the railing attempting to talk to the woman.
Within minutes, multiple agencies were on the scene. The West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office ordered the bridge to be shut down so the Port Allen Fire Department could get to the scene from the opposite direction.
“They shut down the westbound side so we could go up the wrong way instead of having to fight traffic going to Baton Rouge, turn around, fight traffic coming back,” said Hebert.
The decision stunned traffic throughout the city for hours but cut the fire department’s response time in half.
“Had they not come up the wrong way, they would have never made it there,” said Lt. Ken Albarez, traffic supervisor for the WBRSO.
Once firefighters were on the scene, they had to act quickly. Hebert began climbing his way down to the beam where the woman was sitting, unable to move.
“With a patient being that scared, you got to get down to them,” said Hebert.
At a height of 167 feet above the Mississippi River, Hebert attached himself and the woman to a harness and they were pulled to safety.
“It takes an extreme amount of nerve and guts to cross that rail and especially be lowered down some 10 feet to rescue someone,” said Lt. Albarez.
Humbled by the unforgettable moment, Hebert shared credit with his fellow emergency response crews.
“If they’re going to call me a hero, everyone else that was standing behind me is one too,” said Hebert.
The woman was reportedly unharmed from the incident. Everyone who witnessed it took a lesson away from that moment.
“Suicide is absolutely not the way to go. Once you decide to jump off that bridge, or whatever method you choose, there’s no turning back,” said Lt. Albarez.
If you or anyone you know is having thoughts of suicide, the National Suicide Hotline is 800-273-8255.