This story by Steve Fine was originally published by PG&E on July 26. It is republished here with permission.
Norrell Patterson, a lineman from the De Anza division, groaned in disbelief as a semi-truck roared past him on highway 680 in San Jose and veered into his lane, cutting him off. Clearly, this just wasn’t his day. For starters, he and his teammate, lineman Shea Moore, were delayed on that May morning by technical difficulties with their vac truck. Now facing heavy traffic, the men were off to a late start for their job assignment in Milpitas. But even though their morning had been stressful, it was nothing compared to what was about to happen.
Without warning, the truck driver, who had been so anxious to speed ahead of Norrell just moments earlier, unexpectedly slammed on his breaks. As the big rig jerked up and down under the stress of the sudden halt, Norrell deftly steered clear of disaster and guided his truck to a stop by the side of the road.
Still stunned, Norrell looked up and saw the reason for the semi’s sudden stop: a distraught woman walking slowly and deliberately along the highway overpass railing. There was no mistaking her intention.
Shea, who was following Norrell to their jobsite, safely guided his truck to a stop near his co-worker and joined him by the side of the road. According to the men, time seemed to stand still.
But Norrell and Shea didn’t.
As the woman leaned forward and plunged off the overpass above them, the two long-time co-workers sprang to action. Shea, a former military EMT, rushed over to the woman as she hit the ground. After determining that she was still conscious, he stayed by her side, keeping her calm and stationary.
At the same time, impatient drivers oblivious to the situation began snaking through the maze of stopped cars, not noticing Shea, the woman he was aiding, or the growing crowd of spectators gathering around them.
After confirming that 911 had been contacted, Norrell calmly stopped traffic while moving the spectators safely out of harm’s way.
Emergency personnel arrived at the scene within minutes to transport the woman to a nearby hospital. Thanks to Norrell and Shea’s heroic actions, there were no car accidents or further injuries, and the woman who jumped from the overpass is currently receiving treatment.
The event had a lasting effect on both linemen, who were grateful to be able to help. “Life is precious. I can’t imagine the hurt that led her to this path,” says Shea. “We would do it for anybody–anytime.”