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Deputy Clutches Suicidal Boy On Bridge Until Help Arrives

Draped over the top of a retention fence, an Orange County Sheriff's deputy holds the teen's limp body until two other Rancho Santa Margarita officers arrive to help pull the boy to safety 40 feet above the freeway.

ORANGE COUNTY, CA -- In a scene that might have been dreamed up for a Bruce Willis action movie, an Orange County, Calif., deputy saved a 17-year-old boy from jumping off a bridge in a suicide attempt Monday.

With the boy on the outside of a retention fence that runs along the Banderas Bridge over the California 241 toll road, Rancho Santa Margarita Deputy Tim Africano balanced himself over the top of the fence and grabbed the teen by the arm before he could jump.

The boy, who was perched on a ledge just inches wide, then went limp in an effort to break free of Africano's one-handed grasp.

From that point on, Africano held on for dear life—until two other deputies arrived in their police cruisers to assist. 

Finally, with deputies Dustin Fike and Mike Stout holding onto the boy from atop the fence—Stout grabbed an arm and Fike some clothing—Africano lifted the boy by the waistband to the top of the fence. At that point, they were about 8 feet above the bridge, which is about 40 feet above the highway.

The boy didn't make it easy, either. Deputies asked him to help climb the fence, but he refused, instead putting the entire onus of the rescue on the biceps of the officers.

The incident was over before Orange County Fire Authority Station 10 could shut down the freeway in case the teen or officers fell onto the highway, where the speed limit is 65 mph.

"I'm just glad I was there to help," Africano said. "I was just doing my job."

Africano may have shrugged off his effort, but his boss, Lt. Brian Schmutz, wouldn't -- and neither would a couple of witnesses.

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“Based on what I’ve heard from people passing by, this teenager would have jumped from the overpass if it hadn’t been for the quick actions of Deputy Africano and responding deputies," Schmutz said. "Their bravery and concern for this troubled young man saved his life and spared his family from tragedy and loss.”

According to a witness who described the event in a letter to Schmutz: "They quickly came to the young man's aid without second thoughts of their own safety. One Officer risked his own life as he crawled over the retention fence and firmly grasped the young man's clothing while the other two officers held on to the young man through the fence. ...  It was not an easy rescue. The young man was barely hanging on to the fence. His hands slipped several times."

The incident began about 30 minutes earlier when deputies were dispatched at 1:34 p.m. to a residence in Rancho Santa Margarita. The teen, who had a history of cutting himself and overdosing on medication, had told his mother he was going to kill himself by throwing himself in front of a car.

In an apparent effort to keep his mother off the trail, he contacted her by phone and said he was on the Oso Parkway Bridge, which is west of Antonio and spans the canyon there. Deputies were dispatched there, as well.

At 2:05 p.m., deputies received word the boy was on the Banderas Bridge on the outside of the fence.

Less than two minutes later, Africano—a motorcycle cop—was on the scene.

"The subject made statements that he was going to kill himself and began moving along the ledge, toward the middle of the overpass," Schmutz said.

Before the teen could get over the pavement and traffic lanes, Africano—balanced on top of the fence—grabbed him with one hand and held on until help could arrive. Within about three minutes, the boy was on the sidewalk instead of the ledge.

He was taken to Mission Hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Daniel Lane June 06, 2012 at 11:27 PM
This is great!
nadd June 07, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Wonderful Loving Police Officer doing not only his duty but also with Human Compassion! With all the Christian Hate going around in this Country wonder if this poor young man was persecuted by these Demons. Preachers asking for Death of Gay People. Preachers from US going to Uganda Africa and fueling the flames of the Fire of HATE for Death Sentence of Gays. We must treat all acts of Hate by Christian Preachers as Terrorism!
cheryl casale June 07, 2012 at 06:14 PM
hop the young man get the help he needs and find out whats going on in his family that he doesnt want to live any more , what could be so wrong for him to want to die ,
Theresa June 07, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Thanks to all the men and women in uniform who risk their lives everyday to keep the rest of us safe. We don't appreciate them enough.
Cindy Mann June 07, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Good job!!! Just a miracle the officers were there to save what I hope one day will be a happy and healthy young man!! Peace of mind is sometimes hard to come by, but I pray all involved will find it!!
Chatt June 07, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Well done officers!
Jamie June 07, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Help is long over due. Sounds like he has had a lengthy battle with harming himself. I wish him nothing but the best. I understand how bad it can feel at times. When your young and have no experience at life, it can feel worse.
Shelmartin June 07, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Unbelievable!! Thank you to the officers that saved his life.... Now lets give this boy a reason to live. If we don't.. then we've meerely postponed his death. Find him and HELP him like he's never been helped before. Don't let him slip through the cracks as it seems he has for a long time. Maybe this officer can follow up and explain to him why HE felt like the boys life was worth saving and maybe mentor him in a way that could be life changing for him. That would be a wonderful reality tv show that I bet millions would tune in for... now wouldn't it!!!
Jenna J Romano June 07, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Well done to the 1st police officer who risk his life to help save this teen's life and to the other 2 officer's well done and to risk your life to help save him..I really Pray this treatment he is getting will really help him and he grow's up to be a fine gentlemen and he lead's a good and healthy life..God Bless Him...Also like to add parent's if you see your child of any age looking depressed or anything strange seek help for them right away don't wait til the last minute...Help is out there use when needed...Don't Wait.....
John June 07, 2012 at 09:38 PM
This is happening all over, and it’s a terrible feeling deep inside, I was their myself and the feelings still come and go. We need to keep an eye on people who feel like this, was the mother aware the first time and didn't do anything? Officers you deserve a medal, whether it’s your job or not, you saved a young boy's life, and for that we thank you!
Wombat June 07, 2012 at 09:51 PM
How ridiculous. Some day we will, as a society, recognize that when a person wants to end their life, it is THEIR decision and it is to be honored. Just like it used to be frowned upon to not get married and have children if you didn't want to, and it was frowned upon to have homosexual relations if you wanted to, some day we will look back with shame at this point in history that we were ever so holier-than-thou that we could decide what was best for someone ELSE.
Laderagrrl June 07, 2012 at 10:16 PM
RSM has some of the most dedicated officers anywhere. Wells done, sirs!
Laderagrrl June 07, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Putting aside the debate over whether suicide should be allowed by law or condoned by society, this poor soul had no right to involve others in his act. Jumping into traffic is going to leave more than one victim; anyone on whom the jumper lands is going to be injured if not killed, and even if the jumper doesn't hurt anyone on the way down - even if the jumper dies on the pavement - a car traveling 65 MPH may not be able to avert hitting the jumper (deceadent) after landing and will suffer severe property damage and probable injury . Even if hitting the deceadent is avoided, just witnessing such a horrible act is going to leave witnesses affected forever. And what of the officers who did their duty? A sad act and a selfish one.
Nancy Wride (Editor) June 07, 2012 at 10:54 PM
So well said, Janet. Heroic rescue of such a young person, and I will pray that the village helps buoy this young man back to stability and will to live. And Martin Henderson has told the near-tragedy in his usual fine skill.
boymike June 07, 2012 at 11:02 PM
I'm sure he was bullied. Harassment is illegal. They need to start prosecuting these bullies, then they will stop. The schools are responsible to provide a safe learning environment. This scenario is getting ridiculous.
Nancy Wride (Editor) June 07, 2012 at 11:14 PM
The first student who gets expelled on second warning/offense from a particularly good school will solve a lot of the problem immediately. If a student were kicked out of a great-scoring school where there are wait lists, suddenly the parents would start to have a clue, and other kids would be empowered to report it, seeing that something actually gets done for them. Right?
Loretta Mills June 08, 2012 at 12:13 AM
I work in a jail and i see a lot of kids with no home life, not really into school and because of poor economy, selling drugs seems to be the answer or breaking into homes and businesses. I applaud this officer and his associates. The young man is crying for help and looks like the parents dont give a crap. More men and women should be big brothers and big sisters, and oh yeah no touching the kid. I hope this young guy finds out what life is all about and hopefully find it before he tries again.
nb June 08, 2012 at 12:18 AM
He will try it again....been there and done that. If he doesn't get help AND follow up for several years, he will eventually finish the job. What this young man has is like alcoholism...or anorexia....it never goes away.....he will need to find something wonderful and meaningful to live for or the mental illness will resurface. I know firsthand.
nb June 08, 2012 at 12:22 AM
There is a part of me that agrees with you Wombat. I was just taken into custody the other night for simply saying to the cop when he pulled me over (for not using my freaking turn signal on a right hand turn), "don't give me a ticket, officer, just shoot me in the head....I've had a really crappy night and this is the last thing I need." He felt it was "his duty" to SAVE me.....pissed me off. If I had been suicidal for real....his mean behavior would have pushed me over the edge. They need to stay out of peoples' personal lives unless people specifically ask for them.
nb June 08, 2012 at 12:31 AM
So many of you guys have left comments about how wonderful these cops were....I tried to commit suicide a few years ago and the "savior cops" were mean as hell....simply awful to me and treated me like I was a criminal....handcuffed me, talked horribly to me...and the nurse at the hospital was in my face screaming at me like a marine sargent. The SOB's that think they saved me didn't do anything but make themselves feel better and even made my situation worse because of their lack of understanding. If these cops were ANYTHING like the people that dealt with me a few years ago, trust me, this boy is not saved.
Lucinda ONeil June 08, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Thank God the police were there to save the boy. At 17 your feelings of hoplessness tend to over power your better judgement. Who u are when your a teenager and who u are as an adult are 2 diferent things. Lotts of people go through suacidal phases when they are young and look back on there lives and thank God they did not succeed.My 19 year old son passed away recently a month befor he was due to graduate. There was no way to save him. The way he chose to do it...there was no saving him. He was our only son and the pain is never ending and excruciating. Every day we think of him and every time something good hapens we think about how happy he would have been if he could have just gotten through that point. Or if we could have gotten him the help he needs. So good to hear this boy was able to be saved. I pray he sees it as his chance and gets the help he needs.
Elliott Lanosa June 08, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Wow, well first, the Officers involved are Hero's. I am also very glad that the young man involved was not successful in his attempt to kill himself. Sounds like he has some personal issues, especially if he is self mutilating/cutting. Very classic sign of sexual abuse or trauma not dealt with. I hope everything works out for him and that the Officers get the attention they deserve.
Elliott Lanosa June 08, 2012 at 03:58 AM
sounds as though you may need some therapy NB. If you have such anger for those who saved your life then maybe you still have the issues that brought you to that point a few years ago. I am sorry you have no words of support for this 17 year old boy. I am sorry you had to go through a negative experience but you are still here, albeit, angry. The police involved where probably more scared that you were, afraid for your life, so please reconsider how you speak about this young boy.
Elliott Lanosa June 08, 2012 at 04:00 AM
what does this have to do with this story. your comment seems oddly unconnected to this attempted suicide of a 17 year old boy.
LeAna Bui June 08, 2012 at 04:25 PM
First of all, we have no idea what brought this boy to this point - this is all speculation and totally inappropriate. Let's just hope he gets the help he needs. Second, expelling the bully only further alienates the bully, who probably has his own challenges. Third, How do you know expelling the bully will clue in parents? More likely, such parents would fault the school system and claim that their child is the victim of hysteria. Maybe even sue......
Lawrence (Larry) McCook June 09, 2012 at 09:19 PM
It is great for our officers to get credit for doing a great job in RSM! Hopefully this boy will get the intensive and long term care that he obviously needs. Kudos to the Rancho Santa Margarita Sheriff's Station who are out there protecting us every day and do not get enough thanks for their fine service!
Sandy Castor June 17, 2012 at 02:34 PM
God Bless your sweet hearts gentlemen!!!! I'm sure he is grateful NOW, but at the time his mind was so confused and out of sorts.
mommy25girls July 06, 2012 at 07:18 AM
Maybe he will now that he is longer at Tesoro. My daughter was involved with this young boy trying to get her and him help. All we got was a scathing letter from Principal Burch about how it was a family matter. I didn't know that violence that occurred on his campus was a family matter. When he was confronted regarding the letter after this incident he screamed in the parking lot that "this boy wasn't his problem because it happened off campus." Good luck to all you Tesoro parents. You are going to need it.
Randall Page August 10, 2012 at 12:17 PM
To Martin Henderson, thank you for the well written article of Tim Africano and his colleagues. It was refreshing to read and gratifying to see such admiration for our finest.
Anonymous September 09, 2012 at 03:30 AM
I know this boy. I hope he's still okay... I met him in the hospital in January where he went after a suicide attempt. I hope he gets the help he needs.

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