Thwarted suicide nets hotel worker honors

When a guest demanded a room at Newport Beach's Island Hotel during the afternoon of Oct. 20, employee Andrew Shoashekan thought she was acting odd.

On Thursday, almost exactly two months later, Newport Beach police honored Shoashekan for what he did in the next few minutes that day.

Shoashekan showed the guest, a woman about 65 or 70 years old, to a room on the eighth floor.

The guest immediately went to the balcony and said she wanted something higher.

"She was heavily intoxicated," said Shoashekan, a Costa Mesa resident who attended Corona del Mar High School.

Beyond the alcohol, the 26-year-old hotel attendant assumed something else was wrong: "I thought to myself, she's probably suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia."

After being taken to the 18th floor, she struggled to open the balcony door while Shoashekan begged her to come downstairs with him.

She asked for a glass of water, and in the short time that Shoashekan was gone, the woman had managed to get the door open.

"She looked at me," Shoashekan said. "She said, 'OK, bye,' and just dove off the railing."

Shoashekan lunged forward and caught her by the waist while most of her body dangled over the edge.

"I dove and I grabbed her, and I started pulling in the other direction as hard as I could," Shoashekan said.

He hauled her back into the room and held her down while he radioed for help.

"She was begging me to let her go," Shoashekan said. "She said that you have no idea what I've been through in my life. I just kept telling her, 'It's not worth it. It's not worth it.'"

Newport Beach police honored Shoashekan's quick action and credited him with saving the woman's life.

Chief Jay Johnson presented him with a citation at the Newport Beach police station. The crowd of about 100 who had gathered for the occasion rose and applauded.

"Your efforts are exemplary as an employee at the Island Hotel," Johnson said. "And on an even greater scale as a human being with respect and compassion for life."

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