The 26-year-old UMass Lowell student sat crying on the O’Donnell Bridge, his feet hanging off of the railing at the highest point on the bridge’s eastern side.
Trinity Ambulance EMT’s Gregory Pekarski and Tim Cunningham were driving to Lowell General Hospital on an unrelated medical call when they saw the student and stopped, concerned he could be suicidal. They called police for help at 4:41 p.m.
Pekarski began speaking to the man, who admitted he was thinking of jumping as Pekarski crept closer and closer.
“I’m sorry,” the young man said as he pushed himself forward and off of the railing.
Pekarski leapt forward, swung his left arm under the 26-year-old’s shoulder, and pulled him back over the railing and onto the sidewalk.
Lowell Police were asked to hurry. Pekarski and Cunningham were holding the man down on the sidewalk, but he was struggling to get back on his feet. He continued to struggle when police arrived, and had to be handcuffed before he stopped.
The young man was taken to Lowell General Hospital for a psychological evaluation.
City police said they had been searching for the man since 4:30, when UMass Lowell Police asked for assistance with finding a student who’s friends reported he was distraught and said he planned to kill himself.
The student had left his belongings behind in a building on campus.
UMass Lowell spokeswoman Patti McCafferty confirmed the man was a student who was being sought for a well-being check, but said she could not comment further due to privacy concerns.
Trinity Ambulance co-owner John Chemaly was also limited in what he could say when contacted at home last night.
“I’m very proud of the way they handled the situation, and they will get a commendation from Trinity shortly.”
A police report on the incident indicates the fall from the bridge to the rocks and water below likely would have been fatal.
I didn’t really need a report to tell me that. I went to the bridge tonight, after the fact, to take some pictures. (I got stuck in traffic and missed the actual scene even though I listened to it all on the radio).
I can’t report why this man was trying to kill himself, though I am aware of the reason. I think, though, that I can say, that having heard off-the-record what police think his reason was; I don’t think he’ll try again.
This man was someone who can really be helped. And that someone stopped him, tonight, when his last words were going to be “I’m sorry,” is something that makes even a jaded, cynical, shallow jerk like me think that something really awesome just happened.
First time I’ve ever posted a goal on my blog. I want to take this guy’s picture when he graduates.