Calif. cops save woman dangling from freeway

3 officers grab distraught woman who threatened to jump from overpass, officials say.

By Peter Larsen
The Orange County Register

LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. — A trio of officers from the Orange County Sheriff's Department and California Highway Patrol risked their own lives to save a woman who threatened to jump from a freeway overpass in Laguna Hills on Sunday.

A 22-year-old woman, upset over a recent breakup, parked her car on Alicia Parkway just before it crosses I-5, officials said. She walked out on the outer ledge of the bridge just before 6 p.m. and clung to a chain-link fence as traffic rushed by 50 feet beneath her.

Sheriff's deputies Brian Gunsolley and Mark Wehrli, and CHP officer Rob Rand, tried to talk her back to safety while other CHP officers stopped traffic on the freeway, Orange County sheriff's Lt. Dan Dwyer said. But the woman refused, saying that she wanted to die.

“She closed her eyes, and basically stretched back like she was going to let go and (Gunsolley) grabbed her fingers through the fence and held her,” Dwyer said. “(Wehrli and Rand) walked along the two- or three-inch ledge and grabbed hold of her, but she kept resisting.”

The woman slipped, lost her footing and dangled over the freeway while Wehrli and Rand clung to her clothes and fingers, Dwyer said. Gunsolley climbed the fence to help, and more deputies grabbed their colleagues to keep them from slipping.

An Orange County Fire Authority ladder truck arrived, and a firefighter and deputy managed to grab the still-struggling woman and bring her to safety. The woman was taken to Mission Hospital for psychiatric evaluation, Dwyer said.

All lanes of the freeway were closed for almost 25 minutes, reopening at 6:20 p.m.

Copyright 2008 The Orange County Register

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