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LEO recalls split-second action that saved man jumping from bridge

Cpl. Andrew Long made a mad dash from 40 feet away, dove to the ground and grabbed the man’s forearm

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The Modesto Bee

By Erin Tracy
The Modesto Bee

TUOLUMNE COUNTY, Calif. — As a suicidal man climbed over the railing on Parrotts Ferry Bridge 150 feet above New Melones Lake, Tuolumne County Sheriffs Cpl. Andrew Long made a mad dash from 40 feet away, dove to the ground and grabbed the man’s forearm as he fell through the air.

“It was adrenaline is what it was; it was adrenaline that enabled me to do that,” Long said during an interview with media Tuesday, a day after the harrowing rescue.

Law enforcement had been looking for the man all night after receiving a report he’d talked about jumping off one of the bridges in the area.

The search centered around Parrotts Ferry Bridge when the man’s vehicle was found near there around 3 a.m.

When the man emerged on the bridge, Long went to talk to him. He learned the man had been watching the law enforcement activity before he came out onto the bridge.

“We spoke mainly about his family, his life ... I just tried to get to know the guy,” Long said. “He made a comment about how he’d never spoken to a cop as much as he had that day.”

They talked for about 15 minutes, but the man repeatedly told Long to stay back. At a distance of about 10 feet and with the sound of cars driving behind them, the conversation was strained.

“And as the situation unfolded around us and the vehicle traffic had stopped and more resources were going there, he began to panic a little more,” Long said. “Then he got some considerable distance from me. When he jumped, he was probably 40 to 50 feet away from me, so I had to sprint and I was just lucky enough that I dove down quick enough and I was able to grab his forearm.”

The man kicked off the bridge and flailed about, but Long maintained his grip despite a broken thumb and the man’s arm becoming slick with sweat.

From the vantage point of other deputies at the scene, they initially thought the man had gone into the water and had no idea Long was on the ground using all his strength to hold onto him.

Calaveras County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Markovitz was the first to reach Long about 30 seconds to a minute later. They both held onto the man’s left arm and pleaded with him to reach up his right.

“I asked him for his (other) arm and reminded him that we all have a reason to live and he has things to look forward to and we are here to help him, and I just did my best to try to remind him of that,” Long said.

The man finally reached up his other hand, which a third deputy grabbed. Volunteers from the Tuolumne County search and rescue team then used a rope to get a hold of the man’s feet, and they all hauled him up over the railing.

A law enforcement drone, which had been used in the search for the man, captured a single image of the rescue before its batteries died. The photo was taken after more people had arrived to help Long but before the man agreed to reach out his other arm and accept help.

[READ: Persons in mental health crisis: A primer for police response]

“I didn’t grasp the severity of the situation at the time; I was just doing what my instinct was to do, to help someone,” Long said. “The photo definitely put into perspective for me what was going on.”

Asked if he considers himself a hero, Long said, “Not a hero, just a first responder ... This is what we do. We are there for people’s worst and their best days. We are here to help people. We have all taken an oath to do it, and every day this is what we deal with. It’s just rarely in the spotlight for other people to see.”

Long, a Sonora native, served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Navy hospital corpsman for eight years before becoming a deputy about five years ago. He served a year in Afghanistan in 2011.

“Anytime you’re in a life and death situation ... it makes me appreciate life and everything I have going for me, and I hope that eventually it will do the same for him,” Long said of the man he rescued.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). Veterans can press option 1.

(c)2021 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.)