A Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy pulled off a high-wire act without a net on Sunday, crawling over the rail of the Huey P. Long Bridge without a safety harness to rescue a suicidal woman who had tried to fling herself into the Mississippi River.
When Deputy Jordan Burst arrived at the middle of the span that leads to the east bank about 1 p.m., he found an abandoned Pontiac on the roadway and bystanders screaming for help.
Just minutes before, the Sheriff’s Office said, a 53-year-old woman from Marrero had tried to jump to her death, but she got stuck on her way down in one of the bridge’s steel beams, suspended about 135 feet above the water.
“If she would have been another 6 inches to the left or to the right, she would have made it into the water,” said Deputy David Lowe, another officer who responded to the scene.
Burst, who joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2008, said he thought he would be serving as backup, but he quickly realized it was up to him. Without waiting for a harness, he climbed over the bridge railing to try to calm the woman down.
“Never in the academy did they train us to go over the side of the rail on a bridge,” Lowe said. “Considering her position, we couldn’t afford to wait very long. ... I didn’t want her to get a second attempt.”
As the woman screamed that she couldn’t breathe, Lowe told her that help was on the way and tried to get her to stop kicking.
Burst feared that if she kicked hard enough, both of them could plunge to their deaths.
Lowe retrieved a strap from his vehicle to attach to Burst. Then both the Nine Mile Point Volunteer Fire Department and the Bridge City Volunteer Fire Company showed up.
“We were kind of like, ‘They’re pretty brave,’ ” Capt. Chris Landry, a Bridge City firefighter, said.
The firefighters were able to provide both deputies with sturdier harnesses. Finally, with deputies and firefighters pulling together, the woman was hauled back up to the bridge.
The Sheriff’s Office said she was taken to Ochsner Medical Center for a psychiatric evaluation.
“There’s definitely a second chance for her, and hopefully she gets the help that she needs and gets better,” Lowe said.
Burst said that since the hair-raising rescue, he has received kudos from friends and co-workers, as well as a little ribbing:
“I’ve had several co-workers and family members give me, ‘I’m proud of you, great job, and if you do that again, I’m going to kill you.’ ”
WWL-TV’s Paul Murphy contributed reporting.