DANVILLE — Dennis and Michelle Hyler were walking on the Riverwalk Trail in Danville on Saturday morning when they saw something unusual: a person standing on the side of the King Memorial Bridge.
They kept walking to get closer. The woman then sat down on the ledge, the Hylers said. At some point, she collapsed, and two police officers reached through the holes in the bridge and grabbed her arms, said Lt. Scott Eanes, who was on scene. Along with a member of the Danville Fire Department, they held her there by her arms.
The woman dangled there for several minutes, kicking and swinging on the bridge above the Dan River where several first responders were waiting in the waist-deep water and a boat with members of the Danville Life Saving Crew circled nearby.
Protected by a harness, an employee of Danville Utilities was dropped over the edge of the bridge near the woman, who began screaming and struggling, according to Eanes. He straddled and grabbed the dangling woman and pulled her back up over the rail and onto the safety of the sidewalk.
“My heart is about to jump out of my chest still,” Dennis Hyler said minutes afterward.
Richard Chivvis, spokesman for the Danville Police Department, said the individual was attempting to jump around 7:30 a.m. Through efforts from the police department, the Danville Life Saving Crew and the Danville Fire Department, the person “was brought to safety and taken for mental health evaluation,” Chivvis said.
“Danville Utilities was also there to help due to concern about a hot wire from a light pole,” Chivvis said.
Dean Fowler, battalion chief with the Danville Fire Department who was on scene, referred the Register & Bee to the police department with any questions.
When the woman was visibly safe again, a small round of applause burst out from several people who were watching from the Riverwalk Trail. The whole situation lasted about an hour, but Dennis Hyler said it felt like much longer than that.
“It felt like forever,” he said, noting that his voice was still shaking minutes after the woman was pulled to safety.
The Danville Life Saving Crew had a boat circulating with several personnel, as well as several others on scene. In total, there were eight units, said battalion chief of training Tommy Barber.
“If something does go wrong, we’re already there available,” he said, noting that the Danville Life Saving Crew and Fire Department are called to any potential suicide situation. “We’re on standby basically.”
This marks the third incident involving an attempted jump from the bridge the Danville Police Department responded to this year, Chivvis said.
The northbound lane of the King Memorial Bridge was closed for a while as first responders attempted to safely talk the person down. Police barricades were set up on both sides to prevent vehicles and pedestrians from coming through during the operation.
When asked for access around 8 a.m., an officer told the Register & Bee that bridge was “closed to pedestrian traffic for safety.”
Michelle Hyler was shaken from watching the situation unfold, but said that the first responders “did a heck of a job.