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Suicidal woman saved in daring rescue

Times Staff Writer

A suicidal woman in Orange County was saved from jumping off a freeway overpass by sheriff’s deputies and a CHP officer who held onto her on a ledge for about 20 minutes until a firetruck arrived to lower her to safety.

The white-knuckle incident occurred Sunday night when the 22-year-old woman from south Orange County climbed onto the ledge of the Alicia Parkway overpass in Laguna Hills. She held onto the chain-link fence on the overpass and inched her way over the southbound 5 Freeway. The ledge is 2 to 3 inches wide.

When deputies and the California Highway Patrol officer arrived, the woman resisted their help, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

She is the mother of a young child, he said. “She seemed determined to jump,” he said. “She was despondent.”

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As Deputy Brian Gunsolley talked to the woman, she closed her eyes and appeared ready to jump, but he grabbed her fingers through the chain-link fence and held onto them, Amormino said. Deputy Mark Wehrli and CHP Officer Robert Rand scrambled 75 to 90 feet along the ledge to hold her, Amormino said.

Sweating and strained, officers began to lose their grip on the woman, who then lost her footing and dangled over the overpass. The officers held onto her fingers as Gunsolley climbed over the 6-foot fence to help hold her. Sgt. James Fouste and Deputies John Fry and Tim Brown held onto their colleagues from the inside of the fence, Amormino said.

“It’s an extremely dangerous situation for everyone involved,” he said. The overpass drops 50 feet to the freeway, a fall that Amormino said “no one could survive.” “If she’d jumped onto oncoming traffic, undoubtedly she would have been killed,” he said.

After the fire ladder truck arrived, the woman was taken to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo with no injuries. None of the officers were injured.

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joanna.lin@latimes.com


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