The quick thinking and heartfelt actions of a young group of middle school athletes are being credited for saving a woman from an apparent suicide.
The volleyball team had met up for practice Saturday at Kepler Neighborhood School in Fresno, California, before heading out for a warm-up run. But what really got their heart racing was what they spotted as they ran across a nearby bridge: a woman dangling more than 100 feet in the air by her arms.
Authorities later confirmed the team's account, saying a 47-year-old woman had considered jump from the bridge.
The boys said it took a moment before they recognized what was happening.
“I realize what was going on when her foot started dangling,” said Joshua Velasquez, 13. “Then after that, we all ran down as a team to go tell our coach.”
The team coach, Murray Elliott, called 911 and told the boys to head back to the bridge.
“I said immediately, ‘Go back up and get her attention. Tell her her life matters,’” he said. “So for a whole 10 minutes or so, they did not stop yelling, screaming, telling her, ‘Your life matters.’”
The boys said they pleaded with the woman to pull herself back up.
“She was like hanging, her feet were dangling off and it was really hard for her to pull herself up,” student Micah Channita said.
Eventually, the woman hoisted herself back on to the bridge, where she was met by police.
“I don't think I'll ever forget that moment,” another student, Elijah Gomez said. “And then what was best about it is, I know we saved the woman's life but I'm proud that I was able to do it with my brothers.”
Local authorities called the boys “true heroes” for their actions.
“Their words of encouragement caused this woman to realize her life had value,” Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said in a statement. “Thank God they were in the right place at the right time.”
Health experts say the Kepler team did everything correctly on the bridge — they had someone call 911 and stayed with the woman until professionals arrived.
“I’m very proud of them,” their coach said.
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.