News

Deception Bridge takes a life, but deputies save another

By JIM LARSEN

News-Times editor

One bridge jumper was saved and another died during the past week as Deception Pass became a magnet for suicide attempts.

A would-be bridge jumped was stopped from killing himself by a combination of patient negotiation and a Taser stun gun last Thursday morning, but another jumper — who was seen going over the railing on the Fidalgo Island side of the Deception Pass Bridge Tuesday morning — was pronounced dead at the scene .

In Thursday’s incident, traffic on Deception Pass Bridge was halted at about 7:15 a.m. when two Island County Sheriff’s deputies, Lane Campbell and Scott Fague, responded to a report of a man threatening to jump from the bridge.

The deputies stopped traffic and then approached “David,” a 30-year-old Oak Harbor resident. Campbell did the talking and learned that David was distraught over an argument with his girlfriend. Initially, David had one leg hanging over the railing on the west side of the south bridge and threatened to jump if the deputies got too close.

Campbell said he has had no specific training in how to stop suicidal people.

“I just go on 17 years’ experience,” he said.

He asked the man, ‘What does it take for you not to jump? What can I do for you?”

It turned out the man wanted to talk to his estranged girlfriend, so Campbell got his personal cell phone out of his patrol car and offered it to the man.

“I knew this was going to be my opportunity,” he said.

To Campbell’s surprise, the man reached out his arm for the cell phone, allowing Campbell to move in closer. He let the man talk to his girlfriend, but the conversation didn’t go well.

“It quickly deteriorated,” he said.

The man grew more agitated and took a step back toward the bridge railing. “He was a pretty distraught guy. He convinced me he was going to jump,” Campbell said.

But the deputy had other ideas. Campbell tackled the man. The two men struggled on the ground by the railing, then Deputy Fague stepped in and shot the man in the lower back with a Taser. A Taser delivers a non-lethal, high-voltage electrical charge. The deputies then handcuffed the man and drove him to Whidbey General Hospital where he was handed over to mental health professionals.

Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley described Campbell and Fogue as heroes for saving the man’s life.

“They’ve got a medal coming,” he said.

In Tuesday’s incident, a 43-year-old Mount Vernon man was seen jumping off the bridge at about 8:30 a.m. Will Reichardt, the chief criminal deputy for the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office, said Tuesday that the man died when he struck the rocks 180 feet below the bridge. He said the incident will be ruled a suicide.

Reichardt said his agency is withholding the man’s name until his family is notified.

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