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With a blanket and soothing words, Huntington Beach officer saves a woman’s life

Meghan Haney, an officer with the Huntington Beach Police Department.
Meghan Haney, an officer with the Huntington Beach Police Department, was recently awarded the medal of lifesaving by the department for her effort in talking a suicidal person out of jumping off the roof of a building in June 2021.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, Nov. 23. I’m Carol Cormaci, bringing you today’s TimesOC newsletter with the latest roundup of news and events and taking this opportunity to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. I’d also like to remind you that beginning this week the newsletter will be sent to your inbox once a week, every Wednesday, no longer on Fridays.

A Huntington Beach police officer was honored recently for deterring a woman in her 40s from making a suicide jump off a building around the time dawn was breaking on a June morning last year.

Officer Meghan Haney was on shift when a 4 a.m. call came in on June 15, 2021, about a woman standing atop a two-story building on Beach Boulevard, apparently contemplating suicide.

“We see people when things are coming at their lives unexpectedly ... We get people on their bad nights and their good nights, but we just go out there and do our best to figure out the situation,” Haney told Daily Pilot reporter Eric Licas, who interviewed her after she was honored by her department for her successful life-saving actions that morning.

A fire engine crew and another officer were already at the scene when Haney arrived. But they were struggling to connect with the person in crisis, Licas reports.

“‘So, I see the only way that I can really talk to her on a semi-face-to-face level is if I go on this outside staircase of an adjacent building,’” Haney said. “‘That was the only way that we could build any rapport, or it would be just me yelling up at her.’”

The officer propped herself against a handrail and leaned from the staircase so she could speak with the woman from as close as she could get to her, which was still more than 2 feet away.

“If the woman decided to go over the edge, it was unlikely Haney or anyone else at the scene would have been able to stop her,” Licas writes.

Haney offered the woman a blanket to ward off the early morning chill and continued conversing with her.

“Her story was not too much different from what a lot of other people are going through,” Haney said. “She just needed somebody to talk to. It didn’t seem like, from our conversation, she had anybody telling her not to do this, and I needed to be that person.”

After about 20 minutes into the encounter, the woman agreed to safely leave the building’s roof. She was taken by paramedics to a mental health facility.

Although Haney was commended for her actions that morning, she views the incident through a pragmatic lens.

“Her family life wasn’t going to change in that single night,” Haney said. “So, that’s what the really crappy thing is, is that you’re walking away from this hoping that they get better. But the reality is, their issue is a lot more ... than them not committing suicide.”

Licas reports that there were 14 confirmed suicides in Orange County over the past month, according to data from the Orange County Health Care Agency. Since 2001, an average of about 25 cases have been reported every month.

If someone you know is experiencing a mental-health crisis and might be thinking suicide is the answer, hope can be found by dialing 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or by texting “talk” to 741741. More resources are available here.

MORE NEWS

Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley.
The balance of power on the five-member Orange County Board of Supervisors hinged on the closely contested race between Democrat Supervisor Katrina Foley and Republican state Sen. Pat Bates in District 5, which encompasses coastal and south county cities. Foley prevailed.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

— The last time the Orange County Board of Supervisors had a Democratic majority was in the 1970s, but that changed with the Nov. 8 election, reports my colleague, L.A. Times staff writer Gabriel San Román. With three supervisor seats up for election, Katrina Foley was the sole Democrat to face a Republican — and in a district that favored registered Republicans by roughly 3%. She declared victory last Wednesday night with a steady 2% lead over her opponent, state Sen. Patrick Bates, who called Foley to concede the race Thursday afternoon.

— A nearly eight-story-high electronic billboard proposal submitted to the city of Fountain Valley more than three years ago got the go-ahead from the City Council Tuesday, as the panel moved to adopt an ordinance that would allow it to be installed on private property at 18375 Euclid St. The city could see more than $31 million in revenue from the billboard over 40 years.

— Big Canyon Nature Park in Newport Beach is a place for the public to recreate: kayaking, walking, bird-watching, hiking. But for environmentalists and city staff, it’s the site of a decades-long restoration project that is nearing its final phase.

— As has already become the practice in many communities, Huntington Beach and Republic Services announced they will launch a state-mandated food waste recycling program for all households in mid-2023. The city was awarded a one-time CalRecycle grant of $278,000 to assist with implementation. The funds will be used to purchase 2-gallon kitchen pails, for distribution to Huntington Beach residents, to collect food scraps. When the program begins, residents will have to separate food waste into the green container for composting.

A Whittier man died Sunday night following a crash that left two injured and closed all westbound lanes on Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach for several hours as police investigated the accident. First reports of the incident came in just before 8 p.m. A Mercedes-Benz had rear-ended a parked, unoccupied box truck in the 3300 block of West Coast Highway, between Hoag and Riverside drives.

Expect higher daytime temperatures in O.C. this Thanksgiving than usual, due to offshore Santa Ana winds that will clear skies and howl through mountain passes. Highs forecast for Thursday of 74 degrees in Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach, 75 in Newport Beach and 78 in Costa Mesa and Fountain Valley are five to 10 degrees hotter than normal for this time of year, National Weather Service meteorologist Adam Roser said.

LIFE & LEISURE

 Ava Otto, left, and Kiya Barczyszyn try out their skills at the Surf City Winter Wonderland ice rink.
Ava Otto, left, and Kiya Barczyszyn try out their skills at the Surf City Winter Wonderland ice rink at the Huntington Beach Pier Plaza on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

— The Surf City Winter Wonderland temporary ice-skating rink returned to Huntington Beach’s Pier Plaza on Friday and is set to run through Jan. 8. The rink is for ages 3 through adult. For hours, costs and more information, visit this site.

— If you are a jigsaw puzzle aficionado living in Orange County, jot down this money-saving idea for reference: a few dozen residents local to Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach share their completed puzzles with others in a monthly exchange. Puzzlers meet on the third Friday of each month, from 4 to 6 p.m., at 2000 Republic Ave., Costa Mesa, the home of Mary Fewel, a Realtor whose garage is transformed into a puzzle bazaar where visitors can peruse hundreds of options and swap and return boxes at their leisure.

The Seal Beach Police Department has added a unique safety tool to its patrol cars: a backpack containing a fidget spinner, headphones, rubber toys and a kitchen timer, items that may have a calming effect for people with autism spectrum disorders or other special needs. The idea of providing sensory kits was broached by Sgt. Joe Garcia, the father of a 9-year-old son on the spectrum who is using his personal experiences and discoveries about the complex disorder to help the department better serve the local community.

— New coats or jackets to help keep children warm over the coming months are being welcomed now through Dec. 15 for Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley’s 14th annual New Coat Drive for Kids. New children’s coats can be dropped off at various locations in O.C. during normal business hours, including Foley’s office at the Hall of Administration, 400 W. Civic Center Drive, Santa Ana; Costa Mesa City Hall or Costa Mesa Police Department (on weekends and after hours), 77 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa; and the Foley Group, PLC, 2755 Bristol St., Suite 110, Costa Mesa. Donations support such local groups as the Boys & Girls Club-Central Coast, Marshallese Youth OC, SOY (Save Our Youth), and families identified in need by local schools. Call (714) 834-3220 for more information.

— The Newport Beach City Council last week approved the names for the city’s library lecture hall lobby and the expanded courtyard just outside of it. The lecture hall will be named after Bill Witte and Keiko Sakamoto, who donated $4 million for its construction. The courtyard will be named Stahr Courtyard after a commitment from Elizabeth Stahr, and the lobby will be named for Louise and Roy Woolsey, whose son, Ron Woolsey, is also a donor. Groundbreaking for Witte Hall is expected to occur in 2023 with its grand opening projected for 2024.

SPORTS

Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson speaks to quarterback Elijah Brown.
Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson speaks to quarterback Elijah Brown before a Nov. 11 playoff game against JSerra.
(Luca Evans / Los Angeles Times)

— Are you one of the prep sports fans wondering whether longtime Mater Dei gridiron coach Bruce Rollinson was forced to retire or is going out willingly? Rollinson abruptly announced his retirement, after having said in October he would be back for another year. L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke has some ideas as to how it all came about. Central to the matter is the fact Rollinson and Mater Dei were embroiled in controversy after a former Mater Dei football player’s family filed a lawsuit last year describing a culture of hazing within the program that left their son with a traumatic brain injury. Mater Dei is set to play St. John Bosco Friday in the Southern Section Division I championship game at the Rose Bowl. Eric Sondheimer recently compiled a list of possible replacements for Rollinson.

— Laguna Beach High football team edged Riverside Norte Vista 42-35 in a CIF Southern Section Division 9 semifinal playoff game at Guyer Field, and pandemonium set in. The Breakers (10-3) will make their first CIF title game appearance in 60 years when they play at Diamond Bar (12-1) on Saturday, Nov. 26. Their celebratory mood continued Monday, when Laguna High team members were treated to a visit to the Rose Bowl for their first-ever CIF football press luncheon.

— Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian has been named by the Los Angeles Chargers to serve as the exclusive healthcare provider for its former NFL players, as part of the NFL Dedicated Hospital Network Program, according to a news brief in the Daily Pilot. Hoag has already been the official healthcare partner of the Chargers since 2017. All eligible former NFL players, no matter which team they played for, can visit Hoag’s facilities to receive care through this program.

— The Corona del Mar High School girls’ cross-country team on Saturday earned a coveted trip to Fresno with its fourth-place finish in the Division 3 race of the CIF Southern Section finals on Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College.

CALENDAR THIS

The Newport Dunes lagoon during its annual Lighting of the Bay.
The 32nd annual Lighting of the Bay at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort opens Friday and runs through Jan. 1.
(Susan Hoffman)

— The 32nd annual Lighting of the Bay at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort, 1131 Back Bay Drive, opens Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. and will continue nightly through Jan. 1. On opening night enjoy live musical performances, stocking decorating, holiday photo booths, a holiday movie on the beach, festive food and beverages, and more. Santa will take center stage at dusk as he flips on the lights. Take blankets and beach chairs and settle in to enjoy outdoor movie screening of PG-rated “Elf.” Food and beverages will be available for purchase.

— Looking for a way to run/walk to get the metabolism moving before consuming countless Thanksgiving calories? Here are some fundraising “turkey trots” taking place in O.C. tomorrow:

Turkey Trot 5K OC, Village of Hope Tustin, 1 Hope Drive. Starts at 8 a.m. This event goes through the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and by Tustin Marine Base with views of the hangars. Pets and strollers are allowed and costumes are encouraged. Hosted by the Orange County Rescue Mission. Registration is $30 or more to donate hot meals.

Orange County Turkey Trot, Irvine Valley College, 5500 Irvine Center Drive. Staggered starts to maintain social distancing between 6:30 and 9 a.m. This is a family-friendly event. Choose your own course tactics: run fast, jog, trot, walk or enjoy a stroll on this flat, scenic course. Costume or running attire is welcome. Bikes and strollers are allowed for children. Gobble Wobble events include a Diaper Dash, Tot Trot and Youth Races (one-quarter and one-half mile). Registration costs $38 for the 5K; $28 Gobble Wobble Kids Dash; $45 virtual run.

Dana Point Turkey Trot 5K/10K, Dana Point Harbor, Golden Lantern and Dana Point Harbor Drive. Starts at 7 a.m. for the 10K; 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. for the 5K; 10:15 a.m. for the 1-mile. registration costs $17 and up. Participants will receive a shirt and medal.

Huntington Beach Turkey Wobble, beginning and ending at the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Beach Boulevard. Start times, in waves, are from 7 to 9:40 a.m.; The 1K, 5K and 10K routes are flat. Participants will travel under the historic Huntington Beach Pier, past the outdoor Surf Museum and along Main Street. Registration ranges from $25 to $40 for adults; $20 for kids.

Turkey Trot on the Ranch, Canyon House, 75 Escencia Drive, Mission Viejo; Sendero Fields, 29201 Ortega Hwy., Rancho Mission Viejo. Hours, 7 a.m. to noon. This family-friendly race features a 10K, 5K and 1K Little Gobbler’s run. Registration is $15 to $45 based on event, age and date of registration.

KEEP IN TOUCH

Thank you for reading today’s newsletter. If you have a memory or story about Orange County, I would love to read and share it in this space. Please try to keep your submission to 100 words or less and include your name and current city of residence.

I’d appreciate your help in making this the best newsletter it can be. Please send news tips, your memory of life in O.C. or comments to carol.cormaci@latimes.com.