An eagle-eyed police officer spots a suicidal man perched on a bridge. Despite having no experience with such a situation, the officer approaches the distressed man and convinces him not to end his life. But just as he makes headway, the man slips, hanging from the bridge by his fingertips. The cop leaps to his aid, holding onto the man with one arm before hauling him to safety with all his might.
It sounds like a scene from an action movie, but this true-life drama recently played out off a bridge crossing the N2 in Cape Town.
Law enforcement officer Uzair Thomas (29) has been hailed a hero for saving the man’s life, but the modest cop says it’s all part of his job. “I do what I need to do from my heart and let go of fear because I applied for this job knowing what happens daily is uncertain,” he says.
He’s trained to deal with all sorts of dangerous situations, but Uzair, a law enforcement inspector based in Khayelitsha Resource Centre, admits he wasn’t sure how to react when he first spotted the distressed man.
“I had no experience in handling situations like this, but I decided I am going to carry this situation and make the most of what was going to happen,” he says.
drama unfolded on 22 September when Uzair was on his way to an operation. “On my
way on the N2, we took an off-ramp onto the R300. I saw a man standing on the
pitch of the barrier, as my car approached him, he jumped off but after
passing, I saw him in my mirror jumping on again,” he recalls.
That’s when he decided to reverse his car and check on the man. “When I got out of the car and ran towards him, I noticed there were some people gathered there. That’s when I realised that this person is trying to commit suicide.”
The man appeared to be in his mid-40s and was carrying bags with him and seemed distraught. “He explained he had some issues at home with his wife. He caught her cheating, but the family blames him.”
The conversation between the two men went back and forth for a few minutes as Uzair pleaded with him not to jump. “I told him everything is going to be okay,” he says. “I told him let’s speak and let me help you and hear your story.”
At one point the man got tired of standing on the edge of the bridge and sat down. Before they both knew what happened, he slipped. “I would say 80% of his body was hanging on the other side of the bridge, I could see that he was fighting to get up.”
ran towards him, but the man was battling to hold on. “I don’t know where I got
the power from to hold his whole body weight with my one arm, but I did and
then called on my colleagues to come and help me out.”
He was relieved when they hauled the man to safety. “He was shaking and all I could do was hug him. I hugged him and told him thank you for allowing me to get hold of you and for giving you a chance to live.”
Later he learnt the distressed man was sleeping on the streets after his divorce was finalised about a month ago.
dramatic incident was partially captured on film and widely shared on social
media. “I get so many calls, Facebook and WhatsApp messages and even my
Instagram people are telling me I’m their hero,” Uzair says.
As much as he’s thrilled by the response, he says it’s all part of the job.
Uzair’s wife is due to give birth to their first child soon, after which he plans to check up on the man whose life he saved.
“We all have our difficulties in life and some people hurt us,” he says. “But my advice is if you are suffering from depression or having suicidal thoughts, seek help. There are a lot of organisations you can call or you can even go to your nearest police station. There is a social worker there and you can explain to them what you are going through.”