Speaking out: CHP officers recall saving suicidal woman on Bay Bridge

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For several tense minutes Tuesday evening, high above San Francisco Bay, two CHP officers tried to save a woman from herself.

Officer Dustin Ribergaard was the first to arrive on the Bay Bridge, where there was a report of a suicidal woman.

She was out on a concrete ledge, nearly 200 feet above the Bay, contemplating jumping.

Officer Ribergaard gingerly approached the despondent woman.

"I took a moment to step back from the officer role and kind of stepped into a personal role, trying to connect to her personally, as a friend," Ribergaard said.

Officer Ribergaard is specially trained in crisis intervention.

His goal was to build a rapport with the woman and convince her to climb down.

But it just wasn't working.
"She didn't turn around at all to look at me or speak with me," Ribergaard told KTVU.

His partner, Officer Jeremy Maya, who is also CIT trained, soon arrived and started talking to the woman.

 This time a dialogue began.

"I focused in on her son, got her talking about her son, just tried to empathize with her," said Officer Maya.  "I tried to put myself in that situation and think what if this was potentially a relative of mine."

The officer kept the conversation going with the woman and then asked if he could join her.
She agreed - and that was his opening.

"I actually asked her to hold my hand," Officer Maya said. "From there we progressed to can you slide back a little more and then eventually to a standing position."

The woman had thought it over and decided not to jump.

 Officer Maya got emotional recalling that moment.

"I'm just glad I could help her," he told KTVU with tears in his eyes. 

 A delicate negotiation that gave a despondent mother a second chance.

"I love this job," said Officer Ribergaard.  "I love days like that, where you show up at a person's lowest moment and you're able to see them come back from the edge."
CHP San Francisco posted the photos on their Facebook page along with the following summary.

"On February 10, 2016, CHP San Francisco Area Motorcycle Officers J. Maya and D. Ribergaard responded to a call of a possibly suicidal female subject who had climbed over the railing of the Eastern span of the Bay Bridge. Upon arriving at the location given they confirmed with CHP dispatch there was a party sitting on the ledge of the bridge ready to jump over the side. Both then attempted to speak with the subject but received limited responses.

Officer Maya borrowed a tow strap from a Caltrans bridge tow truck and tied it around himself then onto the bridge railing. Officer Maya, a Crisis Intervention Trained (CIT) Officer, then climbed over the railing and engaged in conversation with the distraught subject. Eventually he was able to convince the female subject to come back over the railing where she was taken into custody. The party was taken to St. Francis Hospital for a mental health evaluation.
We are extremely proud of our Officers for risking their lives and for saving a life. All CHP Officers receive on-going CIT training for situations exactly like this. Well done Officers Maya and Ribergaard!"