As a Transit Supervisor, Surinder Sahdra hears it all the time – police close off a bridge or traffic because someone’s about to jump. But for Surinder, who has been with the Coast Mountain Bus Company since 2000, he’s never had to pull someone back from the edge.
On a Thursday morning with rush hour traffic at its peak, Surinder responded to an incident near the Knight Street bridge where police had blocked off part of Marine Drive. The Transit Supervisor was helping police navigate traffic and buses through the road block when passing drivers on the opposite side of traffic began to honk at Surinder.
“Hey you, there’s a jumper on the bridge,” a woman yelled out her car window.
Stuck at his post, Surinder hoped someone would call for help. However, as the next few minutes passed, more drivers began yelling to Surinder, hoping to catch his attention. Surinder searched for another Transit Supervisor in the area who would be available to help, but the other Supervisor was tied up with another incident.
“I was fairly close and I was going in the same direction, so I thought I should check it out, just in case,” says Surinder.
As he drove over the Knight Street bridge, he spotted a man close to the Mitchell Island exit, straddling the railing of the bridge. Quickly, Surinder updated TComm, who let him know that 911 was now buzzing with numerous reports of someone about to jump.
“Nobody was stopping to help him, everyone was calling 911,” noted Surinder.
Surinder pulled up to the middle of the bridge and began talking to the man. He noticed there was a bottle of alcohol in the man’s back pocket that was almost empty. When asked if everything was okay, he told Surinder to go away.
“My instinct was, if I don’t grab him, he’s going to jump, and then I’ll regret it for the rest of my life,” remembers Surinder.
In a split-second decision, Surinder jumped over the concrete barrier and grabbed the man’s arm to hold him down, keeping TComm updated throughout. Another Transit Supervisor, Frank Liptak, was on the other side of the bridge. He heard what was happening and ran over to assist Surinder. Both supervisors were able to hold down the man and talk to him as he struggled, waiting for police to arrive.
“I’m not a hero by any means,” says Surinder. “I’m just trying to do my best while I’m on the road helping people.”
The Vancouver Police Department later informed TComm that Surinder’s actions – pulling the man off the railing – was the right thing to do. As a critical defuser and having recently received Mental Health First Aid Training, Surinder was able to apply some of this experience to help not only the man he assisted, but himself.
“I think some of those tools did come in handy when I was sitting with the man,” says Surinder, who admits he was a bit shaken. “Afterwards, you start thinking about what could’ve happened and who knows, he may not have jumped.”
Author: Priscilla Leung