A group of truck-driving good Samaritans answered a call to help save a man threatening to commit suicide by jumping off a freeway overpass on Tuesday.
Michigan State Police and local officials rounded up a group of 13 semitruck drivers to form a line below a bridge over a Detroit freeway — Interstate 696 — to significantly shorten the fall of the unnamed man if he had leaped.
He was first reported standing on the edge of the bridge above oncoming traffic just before 1 a.m., Lt. Mike Shaw, a Michigan State Police spokesman, told NPR.
Officers responded by closing down traffic across all six lanes heading in both directions.
“It’s the first step in potential jumper situations,” Shaw said, explaining that it helps calm down suicidal people, keeps cars driving below from crashing into each other and eliminates the possibility of anyone encouraging an unstable person to jump.
Next, troopers began sending semitruck drivers on a detour that re-routed them to end up below the overpass.
According to Shaw, that is standard protocol.
“It provides a safety net for the person in case they happen to lose their grip and fall or if they decide to jump,” Shaw said. “With the trucks lined up underneath they’re only falling about five to six feet as opposed 15 or 16.”
After about two hours of engaging with officials the distressed man willingly backed off the edge and is receiving help, Shaw said.
“He was looking to take his own life but we were able to talk to him and find out what his specific trigger was and helped correct it,” Shaw said.
In all, the ordeal lasted about three hours.
State police authorities posted a photo of the “truck wall” on Twitter using it as an opportunity to remind the public of help available 24 hours a day to anyone thinking about suicide.
“In that photo is a man struggling with the decision to take his own life. Please remember help is available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255,” it read.