Calgary

Good Samaritan saves man on verge of jumping from Calgary bridge

"When he went, it was just my instinct to just wrap my one arm around his armpit, and the other around his throat and I grabbed him," Gabby Finkbiner recalls of her dramatic rescue of a man who tried to leap from a bridge.

Gabby Finkbiner isn't sure how she muscled up the courage or strength to do what she did

Gabby Finkbiner says she wanted to make sure everyone was OK when she saw people standing on the side of a bridge where there is no sidewalk or even a shoulder. (Gabby Finkbiner/Facebook)

A Calgary woman rescued a man who was preparing to jump from a bridge on Stoney Trail N.W. last week.

Gabby Finkbiner was simply driving to a baseball game on July 16 when she spotted three people standing on the side of the bridge. Since there was no sidewalk or even really a shoulder to speak of, Finkbiner decided to pull over and make sure everyone was OK. 

"I got out of the car and I approached the woman. I didn't approach the man. He was leaning over, looking at the water below," Finkbiner told the Calgary Eyeopener.

"I said, 'Is everything OK?' And she goes, 'No.'"

Finkbiner quickly learned that the two women that were already there were social workers. The man standing near the edge of the bridge had called them to let them know he was struggling with suicidal thoughts. 

Instinct takes over

Finkbiner dialled 911.

"But as I was walking back, that gentleman climbed up on that ledge."

Finkbiner said there was little thought about what happened next, and she is not sure how she muscled the courage or strength to do it, but her immediate reaction was to reach out and grab the man. 

"When he went, it was just my instinct to just wrap my one arm around his armpit, and the other around his throat and I grabbed him," Finkbiner recounted. 

"I pushed him as hard as I could into that concrete and we pulled him back up over the ledge. By that time, the other woman had a run to my aid and grabbed his legs. And the next woman came.

"All of a sudden, I'm on top of this man and I'm like, 'It's OK, it's OK.' And I could hear sirens, and the police ran up shortly after."

The man was taken into custody by Calgary police officers and taken to receive the appropriate care. 

"I understand looking back at it now it was quite unsafe," Finkbiner said. 

Indeed, the Calgary Police Service advises that in such circumstances bystanders should call 911 and follow the operator's instructions, and the bystander should always maintain a safe distance. 

But despite that advice, Finkbiner believes she was in the right place at the right time. 

"I really hope that it can raise some awareness that it's OK not to be OK. And if [people] just look around, we can help [others, too]."

Where to get help:

  • The Calgary Distress Centre has a 24-hour crisis line: 403-266-HELP (4357).
  • The AHS Mental Health Help Line is also available 24 hours: 1-877-303-2642.
  • Call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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