Off-duty officers save troubled man’s life

Heather McLaughlin
May 10, 2011
By Heather McLaughlin
The Fredericton Gleaner May 11 2011 FREDERICTON, NB - A former Fredericton man is alive because two Fredericton police officers were late. The timing put them in the right place at the right time to intervene in an attempted suicide.

The Fredericton Gleaner

May 11 2011 FREDERICTON, NB - A former Fredericton man is alive because two Fredericton police officers were late. The timing put them in the right place at the right time to intervene in an attempted suicide.

On May 5, Sgt. Tim Durling and Staff Sgt. Kathy Alchorn were en route to Charlottetown, P.E.I., to visit the Atlantic Police Academy to interview cadets for summer jobs with the Fredericton Police Force.

Durling insisted they travel through Maugerville to catch a glimpse of flood conditions before hitting the four-lane Trans-Canada Highway.

"If you didn't take this cow path, we'd be halfway to Moncton right now," Alchorn teasingly scolded Durling, who was driving.

Add in a coffee run through a Tim Hortons drive-thru and the pair was running behind schedule.

"There was a million reasons why we shouldn't have been there when we were ... Kathy and I both agree and I believe it definitely has to be divine intervention. It was just too freaky," Durling said.

About 12 kilometres past the gas station at 10:45 a.m., they crossed a highway overpass and were close to the exit off the four-lane highway that leads to Moncton and Riverview.

"I observed a car parked on the side of the road with its four-way flashers on. Then I looked and saw a man sitting on the rail of the overpass with what appeared to be a white rope. Kathy and I just looked at each other and said, ‘Did you just see what I saw?'''

Alchorn had made eye contact with the man when they drove past.

"He was looking over his shoulder all the time and when he turned around I looked right at him and I could see in his face, in his expression there was something wrong and when Tim started backing up, he was looking at us," Alchorn said.

"As we're backing up, he jumped. So we jumped out and ran as fast as we could and we looked over and the rope failed," Durling said.

Below them as they peered down from the highway, Durling and Alchorn expected to see the man's body on a roadway. Instead the motionless man lay alongside a set of train tracks.

"I hollered to Kathy to call 9-1-1 and she runs to get her cell phone. I take off down the embankment to the guy and as I'm getting there, I can hear a noise that's not familiar to me. I'm checking the guy out to see what's going on and I look up and see a train coming. I grabbed him and moved him away from the tracks and 30 to 40 seconds later a train goes by," Durling said. "I didn't have a choice (about moving him). It was life or limb."

When Durling propped up the man, he stirred to consciousness, although he was in shock, his neck and hands showing rope burns.

"I saw you coming to help," the man mumbled.

Durling noticed the man had a set of rosary beads with him.

"I knew he did some business with God, so I said 'God's got another plan for you buddy and it's not to die today,'" Durling told the man.

Alchorn said she would like to hear her 9-1-1 call as she stayed on the line describing the scene and location to dispatchers.

"I know I was going ‘Oh, my God, he's got him up walking. Oh, my God, there's a train coming,' " Alchorn said.

As the train rumbled by, she couldn't hear the dispatcher and they couldn't hear her.

Although the man had tied one end of his rope around the guard rail, he didn't have a chance to firmly knot the rope around his neck because the officers were rushing towards him. But he managed to entwine it around his neck a couple of times. Durling said that helped spare his life because the rope held long enough to break the man's fall before he hit the ground.

"There's definitely divine intervention there," Durling said.

Durling credited their police training, including the skills they develop to observe a situation, as helping them respond in the way they did.

Alchorn said police and paramedics took over from the police officers to transport the man to hospital.

"He's doing pretty good. He's in stable condition with a lot of broken bones and things of that nature," Durling said.

The man has begun talking to his family and the police officers have since learned that family issues were a factor in his decision to try to end his life.

"We were glad that we were able to assist," Durling said. "He's alive. That's the good side of the story.

Police spokesman Cst. Rick Mooney said there's a process to nominate police officers for life-saving efforts and it's likely they'll be nominated for their intervention, although both officers said they were just happy to have been able to help.

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