A man’s life was almost certainly saved after a mother, her daughter and police officers were able to grab him as he prepared to plunge into the River Ouse from the swing bridge at Newhaven late on Wednesday night (February 4).
Police were alerted at 10.45pm when a Peacehaven woman rang to report a man standing on safety railings on the north side of the bridge, threatening to jump and kill himself.
She and her daughter, who together with her husband had been travelling east in a car on the A259 when they spotted the man, tried to calm him as officers raced to the scene. The coastguard and lifeboat were also alerted.
The man, dressed in a grey hoody and jeans, told them that if police approached he would jump. He began to lower himself from the bridge and as he let go the women managed to grab his wrists.
Police officers who had been waiting at a discreet distance then dashed forward to help and pull the man back to safety.
A couple from Carshalton, Surrey, used ropes and a life buoy to try to help secure him as he struggled to break free.
The man, 25, from Newhaven, was detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act and taken to Eastbourne District General Hospital for treatment.
Sergeant Kevin Leete, of the Newhaven police neighbourhood response team, was among officers who responded to the emergency.
He said, “The two women who engaged with the man and who were the first to grab him as he let go showed great presence of mind and indeed, courage, as they hung onto him while officers ran in to help.
“They were also in some danger as the man was struggling to release himself and the river below was approaching high tide, which generates strong currents. The water temperature was only around eight degrees centigrade and it was freezing cold in the wind.
“Everyone involved did just the right things and probably saved this man’s life. Given the tide and temperatures, plus the height of the bridge, the consequences could have been much more serious.”