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Two Orange County deputies and a California Highway Patrol officer jumped onto the outer ledge of a freeway overpass Monday to save a woman who was threatening to jump.
The rescue occurred on the Alicia Parkway overpass above the southbound 5 Freeway in Laguna Hills.
Authorities said the 22-year-old woman was standing on a three-inch wide ledge and holding on to the overpass' fence. Responding CHP officer Robert Rand said he used his cruiser to block the overpass after he noticed the woman.
"When I responded, I saw the woman was hysterical," Rand said. "She was grabbing on with her fingers. It seemed like she was threatening to jump if anybody got closer to her.
"I blocked the onramp with my patrol car. When I got back, I saw deputies trying to hold her."
Rand and Deputy Mark Wehrli scaled along the outer ledge, about 50 feet above the freeway, to reach the woman.
"I was hooked onto the fence with my right arm and holding onto her with my left," said Wehrli.
Deputy Brian Gunsolley was inside the fence, holding on to the woman. He said he jumped over the fence when he realized the woman might push away from the ledge.
"You just don't think," he said. "You're focused on the moment, focused on saving a life and to overcome the problem we had.
"Even with all three of us holding on, she was still slipping from us. We were seconds away from her dropping. She pushed away with her feet, and she stiffened enough that we were able to push her up against the fence and hold her until the fire department came.
"We wouldn't have been able to do it if it wasn't for the officers on the other side holding on to us. I lost all strength in that grip and he wasn't letting go. It was teamwork."
Firefighters used a ladder truck to reach the Rand, the two deputies and the woman. She was transported to Mission Hospital.
"When it was over, I looked up and realized just how high up it was," Wehrli said. "I've never been in a situation like that before. Any other deputy would have done the same thing."

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Suicidal Woman Saved By Team Effort

A suicidal woman in Orange County, California was saved from jumping off a freeway overpass by sheriff's deputies and a CHP officer who held onto her on a ledge for about 20 minutes until a fire truck arrived to lower her to safety.

The white-knuckle incident occurred Sunday evening when the 22-year-old woman from southern Orange County climbed onto the ledge of the Alicia Parkway overpass in Laguna Hills. She held onto the chain link fence on the overpass and inched her way over the southbound 5 Freeway. The ledge was 2 to 3 inches wide.

When deputies and the CHP officer arrived, the woman resisted their help, said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. She is the mother of a young child, he said.

"She seemed determined to jump," he said. "She was despondent."

As sheriff's Deputy Brian Gunsolley talked to the woman, she closed her eyes and appeared ready to jump, but he grabbed her fingers through the chain link fence and held onto them, Amormino said.

Deputy Mark Wehrli and CHP Officer Robert Rand scrambled 75 to 90 feet along the ledge to hold her, Amormino said.

Sweating and strained, officers began to lose their grip on the woman, who then lost her footing and dangled over the overpass. The officers held onto her fingers as Deputy Gunsolley climbed over the six-foot fence to help hold her.

Sgt. James Fouste and deputies John Fry and Tim Brown held onto their colleagues from the inside of the fence, Amormino said.

"It's an extremely dangerous situation for everyone involved," Amormino said. "There was a chance that the 22-year-old woman and all three officers could be killed."

The overpass drops 50 feet to the freeway, a fall that Amormino said "no one could survive."

"If she'd jumped onto oncoming traffic, undoubtedly she would have been killed," he said.

After the fire ladder truck arrived, the woman was taken to Mission Hospital with no injuries. None of the officers were injured, Amormino said.
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