Military training that included a tour in Afghanistan gave a passing motorist the steely resolve to stop and talk a teenage girl out of dropping off the First Street bridge to the train tracks many metres below.
Sgt. Michael MacIntyre, of 1RCHA at CFB Shilo, was returning to his Brandon home Saturday at about 1:20 p.m., after picking up a friend at the city airport.
As he drove over the bridge, he saw something unusual.
A young woman without any gloves or toque was standing on the edge of the bridge in the frigid weather, where wind chill made it seem like it was more than -40 C.
As Brandon Police Service was receiving many calls about the potentially fatal scenario, MacIntyre decided to drive over the bridge, park on Pacific Avenue, then run back to the west side of the bridge, near the southern half over the train tracks.
"I knew immediately I had to pull over and stop. I knew that I could help her and say the right things," the 32-year-old married father of two young children told the Brandon Sun yesterday.
"I was in my element. It seemed clear. I knew what to say and how to make a connection."
As he approached the teenager — it turned out later she was 17 — she was already talking at a distance to an older couple who had also stopped.
"I walked up to her, she was talking to that couple. I knew I had to get as close to her as possible — without freaking her out. I was 10 feet from her and she said: ‘Don’t come any closer, or I’ll jump.’"
The teenager was standing on a narrow ledge on the outside of the guard rail.
MacIntyre has previous experience helping someone close to him who had tried to commit suicide.
"I knew I had to engage her and keep her talking and get her engaged with me," the soldier recalled. "She had no hat, no mitts and her face and hands were so red from the wind chill."
As MacIntyre also had no gloves on, the pair talked about how cold it was.
"It gave me something to relate to (with her) ... Both our hands are freezing."
With police and emergency personnel mustering near the scene, BPS Sgt. Mike Tosh and Const. Adam Potter approached the soldier and the teenage girl.
The officers tried to offer her a toque.
"When police offered the toque, she said: ‘No, no, no, I’m gonna jump,’" MacIntyre said, noting she agreed to let the police pass a toque and gloves to her.
"I put a toque on her head, gloves on her hands and I just held her hand gently," MacIntyre said. "I just told her it may seem like the end of the world, but it’s not.
"I just kept talking to her and kept her focussed on me. She seemed a bit calmer. The police were coming closer and closer, then we all grabbed her."
While she initially resisted the rescue, the teen soon calmed down, MacIntyre said.
The woman was taken by ambulance to hospital for observation.
As a police officer, Tosh said he had to quickly determine what was happening as he slowly approached MacIntyre and the teenager on the bridge and then decide on a course of action.
"Obviously, you don’t know exactly what’s going on — we didn’t know if (MacIntyre) was a friend," Tosh told the Sun yesterday. "They seemed to have a good rapport at the time.
"That was a helpful. She didn’t want anything to do with us, as we came closer at one point she said she would jump and she took her hands off the railing.
"We just slowly kinda crept up on her, once you get close enough you have to decide what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it."
BPS weekend information officer Staff Sgt. Larry Yanick told the Sun the teenage girl is "known to police" and is a resident in a local youth group home.
No charges will be laid in relation to the incident, he said.
However, MacIntyre will be recommended to receive recognition for his help in preventing what could have been a tragic end to a tense situation on Saturday afternoon.
When asked for his thoughts on the incident, and the way MacIntyre was able to help police, veteran BPS officer Yanick said most citizens really do want to help out when they can.
"In some cases, it’s just second nature, citizens are still good hearted," Yanick said. "They still want to help out when they can. We’re all about people helping people. He was trying to talk some sense into the young lady."