John Tumpane knew something wasn’t right.
Hours before he was to serve as the home plate umpire for the Pirates-Rays game on Wednesday, Tumpane was returning to his Pittsburgh hotel after a jog and some lunch when he noticed a woman climb over a railing on the Roberto Clemente Bridge over the Allegheny River.
He asked what she was doing. What follows is their conversation, as Tumpane recounted to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after he helped prevent the woman from jumping off the bridge and ending her life.
“I just wanted to get a better look of the city from this side,” she replied, according to the umpire’s recollection.
“Oh no,” Tumpane said, hooking his arm around hers. “You don’t want to do that. It’s just as good over here. Let’s go grab some lunch and talk.”
“No, no, no,” she answered. “I’m better off on this side. Just let me go.”
“I’m not going to let you go,” he said. “Let’s talk this out. We’ll get you back over here.”
“No one wants to help me,” she repeated. “Just let me go.”
“No, we’re here to help you.”
“You’ll forget me tomorrow.”
“I’ll never forget you,” he said. “You can have my promise on that.”
Tumpane likely will have little problem keeping that promise. The woman started crying, tried to break away from him and at one point had both feet dangling off the bridge while he supported her full weight.
“I was thinking, ‘God, this has got to be a good ending, not a bad ending,’ and held on for dear life,” said Tumpane, who has no training in suicide prevention or crisis management. “She said, ‘You don’t care about me.’ I said, ‘I care.’ She said, ‘I just want to end it right now. I want to be in a better place.’ I said, ‘You’re going to be all right.’”
With the help of two other men, Tumpane was able to hold on to her until a police boat, helicopter, ambulance, firetruck and police officer arrived. Eventually the rescue workers brought the woman to safety, and Tumpane was able to kneel next to her as she lay on a mat before being lifted into the ambulance. She was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, city police spokeswoman Sonya Toler told the Post-Gazette.
“I told her, ‘I didn’t forget her, and we’d be here, and she’s better off on this side than the other side.’ ” Tumpane said. “I just want her to know that.”
Tumpane, 34, grew up in the Chicago suburbs and has been an umpire for 16 years. He worked his first major league game in 2012 and was commissioned as a full-time MLB umpire in 2016.
Soon after the incident on Wednesday, Tumpane was behind home plate at PNC Park, where he was able to see the bridge just a few hundred feet behind the center field wall.
“It’s also hard when you stand back behind home plate and look and you see the bridge in the distance, In between innings and whatnot, just thinking of how things could have maybe been,” Tumpane said after the game. “Glad it was this way.”