Wheat Kings talk distressed man off bridge


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» EDITOR’S NOTE: This story contains content that may be upsetting to some readers.

Four Brandon Wheat Kings successfully interceded to help a distressed man who was contemplating suicide on the First Street bridge Tuesday evening.

After volunteering at Samaritan House earlier in the evening, Brandonites Calder Anderson and Nolan Ritchie were showing British Columbia products Jake Chiasson and Ben Thornton around the city when Ritchie spotted the man standing on one of the cement abutments for light poles between the north- and south-bound bridges around 9 p.m.

Ritchie, who was driving south, pointed it out.

“The other guys in the car told me to turn around and we went back, heading north over the bridge,” Ritchie said. “He was sitting there and pointing down at us and we were like ‘That’s kind of weird.’”

They didn’t know if there was a gap in the middle between the bridges, so Anderson stuck his head out the back window and confirmed there was. They made another U-turn, heading south again, and this time stopped about 20 feet from the man and Ritchie put on his four-way flashers.

Anderson rolled down his window to ask if the man was all right, and then stepped out of the car to talk to him while Chiasson called 911 from the front seat to summon emergency responders.

Since Anderson was on the south-bound bridge and the man was on the side of the north-bound bridge, there was about 10 feet between them.

“I got out of the car and asked him if he was OK,” Anderson said. “He informed me that things weren’t great for him and he was having some pretty bad thoughts, so I asked him if we could get some help and he agreed.

“I think the biggest thing in that situation is just to ask the person if they need help, and as soon as I asked, you could see the relief on his face knowing he had someone to care for him.”

Another person stopped on the other bridge and also spoke to the man — who was estimated to be 25 to 30 years old — with help arriving five minutes after the initial call was made.

“Life is kind of at a standstill for those couple of minutes,” Chiasson said. “You have the adrenalin pumping a little bit and it’s a situation you’re never taught to be in. It’s just whatever comes out from within is how you handle it.”

But their time with the man wasn’t entirely without issue. He was inches from taking a long fall to the railway tracks below, and at times got unsettled.

“It was scary, some moments,” Anderson said. “He would get up and that’s when your heart starts to beat a little faster and things get a little scarier. I didn’t get too close to him. I didn’t want him to feel any more pressure or anxiety than he was already feeling.”

Anderson urged the man to try moving back over the outer edge of the bridge to the road, but when he tried, he was scared he would fall and stayed. When police officers arrived on scene, they lifted him to safety.

Brandon Police Service Staff Sgt. Bill Brown, who described the man as a vulnerable person in the community, said the man underwent treatment and seems to be doing fine. Brown was appreciative the four players stopped to check on the man’s welfare.

“It’s four young guys who were at Samaritan House already, and continued to provide a community service with no one really watching,” Brown said. “They did something above and beyond.”

Ironically, the team’s leadership group, which includes Ritchie, Chiasson and Anderson, was brought into the coach’s office earlier that morning and urged to do things the right way. Brandon head coach and general manager Marty Murray suggested it says a lot about the four players that they were the ones who stopped to lend a hand.

“It doesn’t get any bigger than that,” Murray said. “What happens if they drove by or they didn’t get out of the car to talk to that gentleman? That makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up for sure.

“I told them after practice [on Wednesday] that’s a lot bigger than hockey and what they did was heroic. It was real mature of those guys to do what they did.”

After the police took control of the scene, the four drove away in what Anderson described as a very quiet car for a while as they processed what had just taken place.

Then they began to open up to each other.

“I don’t know what I would have done if I saw him jump off the bridge,” Thornton said. “We’re very happy that we were able to save him and get him some help.”

They also learned another lesson when 30 or 40 vehicles drove by without stopping in the short span they were trying to help the man. Yet they never considered leaving until the man was safe.

“I think it’s just something that all of our parents and this organization have taught,” Chiasson said. “It’s about picking each other up and just caring for everyone.

“You don’t know what situation people are going through. Sometimes all it takes is just getting out to give them a little help or conversation.”

In an era when recent Hockey Canada scandals have painted junior hockey players in an unflattering light, it was the four Wheat Kings who stopped.

Anderson said the incident illustrated junior hockey players are more than their reputation.

“There is a bit of a stereotype of junior hockey players not being the best guys,” Anderson said. “I’ve known these guys for a while and everyone is kind and a great person. A lot of people don’t get to see us off the ice.

“It sucks that something like this has to happen for people to realize that we are better people than a lot of people think. We’re just like everyone else, and we’re going to look out for each other.”

If you are in a moment of crisis, struggling to understand or cope with suicidal thoughts, or worried about someone else, you can contact Talk Suicide Canada by calling 1-833-456-4566, or texting 45645 (4 p.m. to midnight ET only), or visit talksuicide.ca/parlonssuicide.ca for more information.

» pbergson@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @PerryBergson

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