TEMPE, Ariz. (KSAZ) - A valley freeway was shut down at the height of Thursday morning rush hour and traffic was backed up for miles on the U.S. 60 after a distraught 18-year-old climbed onto an overpass and threatened to jump.
It was a heartbreaking scene that stretched on for hours. Drivers were re-routed away from the area so police and firefighters could move in and be ready to save the young man's life. It happened in a moment -- some officers held onto the man from behind, while other officers in a bucket from a fire truck pulled him from the ledge down to safety.
Police train for years to help in these kinds of situations. It was a good outcome for the man and for the officers who refused to give up until he was safe.
"I was the first one there," said Tempe Police Sgt. Ricardo Vasquez. He tried to start a conversation. "Right off the top, I worked with my demeanor.. I walked in non-threatening and started talking in a clam, monotone voice."
But it wasn't easy.
"He did not say a word to me. Some eye contact, but not one word up to me and follow-up negotiator to continue talking to this guy and getting some kind of response," explained Vasquez.
Soon, a Tempe police negotiator arrived at the scene and a rescue crew went up in a bucket to try to get close to the man.
Police training experts say that's a good thing to do.
"The bucket is closing the gap. The person over the overpass.. there is a huge gap.. you cannot communicate that way," said Kevin Boontjer of Triple Nine Training.
Being physically closer builds trust. Police inched closer until they were able to coax the man off the ledge and onto a platform that lowered him to safety.
"It made my day and for primary negotiator Frank Aguilara. He was top-notch and happy the kid was helped off the bridge," said Vasquez.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-SUICIDE or go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.