Orange County Sheriff Deputies have come under fire the past couple of months, but two weeks ago local deputies prevented an almost certain fatality in Rancho Santa Margarita.
With lights and sirens blazing, deputies Maria Bowman and Richard Oates responded to a report of a man standing on the railing of the Santa Margarita Parkway Bridge on March 30.
Bowman and Oates arrived at 11:25 p.m., two minutes after the call went out, and made contact with a 22-year-old man.
The young adult said he was depressed over family matters and was thinking of jumping off the bridge.
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However, under the calm influence of Bowman and Oates, the troubled man got down from the railing, about 100 yards from Alicia on the east side of the bridge. He was taken into protective custody to be evaluated by mental health professionals.
This is at least the second time in the past year that deputies have prevented someone from jumping off the bridge. An incident was previously averted on April 26, 2010.
"The bridge incidents are another example of how difficult the job of police officer can be sometimes," said Lt. Brian Schmutz, chief of police services. "It’s a position that requires you to be a marriage counselor, a crisis counselor, a medical aid responder, a mentor and a guardian of the community all in one. Going into these incidents with little or no background on the person you’re talking to requires strong communication skills and a lot of patience and empathy. This incident, just like many others we’ve had, showcases what great men and women we have working in the city of Rancho Santa Margarita.
"Our deputies handled more than 11,000 calls for service and resident contacts last year, and I’m very proud of the quality of service."
The bridge, which rises about 70 feet over O'Neill Regional Park and spans Trabuco Creek, has been the site of six deaths in the past, two accidental and four suicides. The first occurred in November, 2005 when a woman trying to retrieve an item that flew out of her car hopped the interior railing thinking there was a median between the east and west spans; there is not. The last was Aug. 4, 2010, the second suicide in a four-month period.
A 21-year-old man jumped off the bridge on June 12, 2011, but survived .