An off-duty fireman has been hailed a hero after talking down a man who was threatening to jump from Wearmouth Bridge.
Keen cyclist Simon Forster, 28, was out on a two-hour ride at about 6.30am yesterday when he spotted the man on the outside of bridge near Sunderland city centre.
After becoming concerned for the man’s welfare, Simon got off his bike and immediately went over to talk to the distressed man, who, after half-an-hour, agreed to climb back over.
Fire chiefs have praised Simon’s actions, calling him a “credit to the service”. Describing what happened, Simon, who has been a firefighter with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) for five years and lives in South Shields said: “He was very upset and was standing on the other side of the handrail looking down over the edge of the bridge.
“Instantly I thought I should go over and talk to him.
“I didn’t want to make things worse by asking him what was wrong, so I just started chatting to him.
“I told him I was a firefighter and talked about what a nice sunny morning it was and tried to find out a bit about him.
“I was just pleased to be in the right place at the right time and to be able to gain his confidence to come back over the railing.”
TWFRS’s control room received a call to attend the incident from Northumbria Police at 6.50am on Wednesday after Simon asked a passer-by who offered his help to call them.
A crew from Sunderland Central Station was despatched, along with rope rescue and swiftwater crews from South Shields and Hebburn, also in South Tyneside.
However, when they arrived the situation had been resolved thanks to Simon’s quick-thinking actions.
The distressed man was treated at the scene by paramedics before being taken into police custody.
Simon, a firefighter at South Shields Community Fire Station, who was about to cycle to Gateshead before heading back to start his day shift, said: “It’s not exactly rare for us to be called to these type of incidents, but I’ve never been to one off-duty before.
“Recently we had six calls to stop people jumping in 24 hours.
“I must have been talking to him for half-an-hour while the police and the fire crews arrived he managed to make his own way back over the railings.”
Assistant chief fire officer at TWFRS, Chris Lowther, said: “Simon did a great job in convincing this man not to jump and potentially saved his life.
“I would like to praise him for his actions and to say how proud we are of him.
“What he did is typical of the dedication of our firefighters and he is a credit to the service.”
l Police were also called to the Queen Alexandra Bridge in the city at 6.15pm yesterday, when a 16-year-old boy was threatening to jump.
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said officers managed to talk him down from the bridge and he was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital.