Michigan State Police, along with a baker’s dozen of truckers and a couple of suburban police departments, came up with a clever solution to avert a suicide early Tuesday morning. Some time around 1:00 a.m., police received a report of a man getting ready to jump off the overpass where I-696 runs under Coolidge Hwy, just a couple of miles north of Detroit. He had either climbed over or around the protective fence and was standing on the top of the bridge’s side barrier, above eastbound traffic, near the median.
There happens to be a Michigan State Police post just a half mile away, so response was both quick and massive. While negotiators from the MSP, Oak Park, and Huntington Woods PDs talked to the man, the state police began shutting down eastbound traffic on the interstate highway. Well, they didn’t shut down traffic entirely. While cars and light trucks were rerouted off the freeway, about a half dozen tractor-trailer rigs were let through to the overpass, where police directed them to line up closely, side-by-side, directly under the bridge. The idea was to shorten the fall if the man decided to go ahead and jump. The same was done on the westbound side of the overpass. A total of 14 truckers apparently volunteered to help save the man’s life, though only 13 fit under the bridge.
(The image has been blurred where the man was standing on the ledge of the overpass.)
That overpass happens to be about a mile from my home. I drive over it or under it just about daily. From the ledge where the man stood, it’s about a 30-foot drop to the concrete pavement below, enough to cause a serious injury, or even death. Semi trailers are about 13.5 feet tall, so stationing them under the overpass would have just about cut the fall in half, significantly reducing the chance of serious injury.
Police negotiators from the three departments talked to the man for hours, finally convincing him to accompany them to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. I-696 was reopened to traffic around 4:00 a.m.
If you or a loved one are feeling depressed or suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to everyone. It can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. Or text to 741-741.
[Images: Michigan State Police]