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Woman Coaxed From Jumping Off Bridge

A 58-year-old responds to a sheriff's deputy after pleas from her family go ignored.

Orange County sheriff's deputies helped prevent a tragedy Sunday night on the Santa Margarita Parkway Bridge when a 58-year-old woman threatened to jump to her death.

OCSD received a call about 7 p.m., and Deputy Bart Epley arrived on the scene less than two minutes later.

The woman, who had been located by her family but was not responding to their pleas, had one foot on the railing of the bridge and one on the sidewalk.

However, under the coaxing of Epley, she returned completely to the sidewalk and walked to him. She was later taken to Mission Hospital for a mental health evaluation.

"The Sheriff's Department is pleased we were in a position to help this family in a time of need," said Lt. Brian Schmutz, chief of police services in Rancho Santa Margarita. "Fortunately we were able to respond quickly and make a difference tonight in this woman's life, as well as her family's."

The family called 911 at 7:02 p.m., and incident took very little time. The bridge was not closed, although it has been during prolonged negotiations in the past.

It's the second time this year a potential jumper was coaxed to safety by sheriff's deputies on the Santa Margarita Parkway Bridge.

Deputies twice made physical saves over the summer. A jumper was grabbed off the Tijeras Creek Bridge on Antonio Parkway near Canada Vista Park, and a teenager was grabbed and pulled over the protective fencing by deputies atop the Banderas Bridge.

In September, a 56-year-old Lake Forest woman was found a few days after she apparently jumped from the Santa Margarita Parkway Bridge, which rises about 63 feet above Trabuco Creek near Alicia Parkway.

Only one person out of eight has survived the fall from the bridge, but he took his own life a year later by jumping off the Oso Parkway bridge in Las Flores.

In October, the City Council of Rancho Santa Margarita began considering new options to prevent people from jumping off its bridges.

Editor's note: For anyone seeking additional help consider:

Shripathi Kamath December 17, 2012 at 09:15 PM
I know that the definition has been mangled beyond recognition in the last two decades, but in what sense is Deputy Bart Epley not a hero? Yes, he did not pull her out of a fire, nor shot some would-be assailant, just used his training, reason and quick-thinking to prevent a mess. One that would have cost someone her life (which she could end differently if she really wanted to), but saved a lot of expense for the aftermath.
Janet Whitcomb December 18, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Whatever was troubling this woman, I think it can be generally agreed that one or more of the following--financial hardship, health issues, employment concerns, troubling relationships--are enough to drive many people to acts of horrific desperation. I applaud Deputy Epley in being able to coax this lady back from almost certain death. Let's hope she is able to receive and accept whatever help it takes to keep her from further attempting to harm herself . . . as well as those who love her.
Martin Henderson (Editor) December 18, 2012 at 10:11 PM
I agree, Shri, Deputy Epley is a hero, one of many who have spent the last year patrolling the streets (and bridges) of Rancho Santa Margarita. I just wish those who consider suicide could see how much appreciation there is for their life saved.

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