SPANISH FORT – Quick action by two Spanish Fort police officers and four bystanders fishing on the Causeway helped save the life of man who tried to kill himself by jumping into Mobile Bay, city officials said.
During the July 20 Spanish Fort City Council meeting, Police Chief John Barber, Mayor Mike McMillan and council members recognized officers Stephen McDuff and Jeffery Josey and residents Herdis Watkins, Tammy Deese, Amber Deese and Brandy Hazelwood.
Barber said that on July 5, the two officers responded to a call that a person seemed to be in mental distress on the Causeway near the Tensaw River bridge.
“The subject had attempted to assault a citizen who was fishing on the bank before exclaiming that it was a good day to commit suicide as he jumped into Mobile Bay,” Barber said.
McDuff arrived as the man jumped in the water. Watkins was fishing nearby. With the man drifting farther into the bay, McDuff and Watkins took a rope from Watkins’ car and tried throw it to the man.
“My concern was to make sure he didn’t go under, so I didn’t put it tight but just enough to maintain his head above water,” Watkins said. “And so, I tied it on and we were able to secure the rope under his armpits and I felt good about that because we were able to have a little more control of him.”
Tammy Deese and the others came over to help.
“We just happened to see what was going on and we went over to talk to him and get him to respond or help them to get him out,” Tammy Deese said. “Just what he had to be going through to bring him to that point. Just to reach out to help somebody who obviously needed some help.”
Barber said the people were able to pull the man from the water and get him to a medical unit that had arrived.
McDuff said the man who attempted suicide called him several days later to thank him and the others.
“He said he really doesn’t know what was going on that day or recalled much of it,” McDuff said. “But he just wanted to thank me and thank everybody else who was involved. I told him the most important thing was that he’s OK and he was able to get whatever help he needs to get.”
Josey said he was pleased to be able to take part in saving someone’s life.
“To be able to help save his life and hopefully he can get the help he needs or whatever he needs, was very fulfilling to me,” Josey said.
Barber said the cooperative effort by police and civilians was encouraging during a time when many people in society are divided.
“In a time when divisiveness permeates our society, these six individuals exemplify the best of our community,” Barber said. “In what could have been a tragic incident, a partnership of citizens and law enforcement instead created strength, courage and genuine compassion to save the life of someone who was in desperate need.”
McMillan also praised the rescue effort.
“Thank you for stepping forward the way you did,” the mayor told award winners. “In times like those you really see the good in people and I want once again to thank you. That is what Spanish Fort is about.”
The four residents received a Citizen’s Award and a resolution from the City Council.
McDuff and Josey receive a Chief’s Commendation.