Officer Catches Woman Jumping Off Bridge Into Train's Path
Roanoke Times via YellowBrix
April 28, 2010
ROANOKE, VA – Just as a woman flung herself off the 10th Street bridge into the path of an oncoming freight train, Roanoke police Officer N.D. Comas caught her leg.
“Let me die!” she screamed. “Let me die.”
Comas, 28, had been patrolling nearby with his car windows down and heard the woman threatening to jump, he said Monday.
As a locomotive thundered closer on the railroad tracks 50 feet below, the officer flung open his car door and raced across the bridge. The woman had jumped onto a platform just below the sidewalk, and when she jumped again, he clamped his right hand around the 140-pound woman’s leg.
“Her whole body was over the railing,” said the well-muscled ex-Marine, a police officer since 2007.
With his left hand locked onto the platform’s railing, Comas hoisted the struggling woman back onto the platform with one arm. She flailed with a knife in one of her hands, squirming and begging him to let her jump.
Still, the police officer kept his grip.
“She could’ve weighed as much as an elephant,” Comas said in an interview on the bridge. “My adrenaline was pumping.”
Other police officers — summoned by Comas’ police radio call to “step it up” — raced to the bridge and helped get the struggling pair to safety. The woman, whose name and age weren’t released by police, was taken to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital for mental evaluation after the rescue, at 1:45 a.m. Saturday.
No one was hurt.
“All the officers do things on a daily basis that are heroic, but this one right here is obviously exceptional,” said Comas’ boss, Capt. Monti Lee.
Comas, a veteran of the Iraq war, said he felt an adrenaline jolt when he heard the woman scream she was going to kill herself. She had a cellphone in one hand and a knife in the other. Comas jumped from his cruiser and radioed for backup.
Then she disappeared over the concrete bridge rail.
“She just did it,” the officer radioed.
Comas said he remembered thinking he could have saved her if he was five seconds faster.
“I was so mad at myself,” he said during the interview.
When he peered over the railing, he saw that the woman had landed hard on the small metal platform about five feet below him.
“My gut reaction, without hesitation, was to jump over the railing and help this lady,” Comas said. “If there was any hesitation, she would’ve been gone.”
He landed as she jumped — again.
That’s when he caught her leg.
“Give me your hand! Give me your hand! Give me your hand!” he yelled to her amid screams picked up by his police radio.
Comas used all his strength to hold onto the railing and the woman’s leg and pull her up.
“She was so squirmy,” he said. “It was like a gigantic catfish. She wanted to go.”
Meanwhile, he saw the bright light of the approaching train, its diesel locomotive growing louder.
He held his grip for about a minute and 15 seconds until other officers began arriving.
Comas said he was so exhausted he collapsed on the street.
“You don’t have the ability to think,” he said. “Sometimes you just have the ability to react, and that’s based on training.”
He also credited fellow officers. He said he knew they would arrive quickly, giving him confidence to hang on and save the woman’s life. “I’ve been spit on and I’ve been called the worst names in the book,” Comas said. “That part of our job is frustrating. But there’s no negativity that’s coming out of this. This is like the one good thing.”