A GRANDFATHER has spoken of how he and his partner talked a distraught young woman out of jumping off a bridge.
Gary Smith says he hopes that speaking out about the experience will encourage other vulnerable people to seek help before resorting to taking their own lives.
The woman was threatening to jump from bridge over the A3M, on Portsdown Hill Road, Bedhampton, where there are signs from the Samaritans urging people to get in touch if they are feeling low.
Mr Smith, a 52-year-old boat skipper, was driving across the bridge when his partner Heather Lloyd noticed the woman at 11.45am on Monday, August 8.
He said: ‘I saw the young lady over the other side of the barrier and she was crying and crying, and I thought to myself “What do I do? It’s a long way down”.
‘I was trying to reason with her while Heather was on the phone to the police.
‘Then another guy turned up and he was talking to her.
‘Eventually my girlfriend got her to calm down and climb back over the fence.
‘The girl was in bits and we could not console her. It was heartbreaking to see her so upset. She is only 25.
‘Eventually she agreed to get in our car and wait for the police to arrive.
‘My girlfriend was extremely upset for about six hours afterwards.
‘We just wanted to send the message out that people don’t have to resort to that. There are people to speak to.’
The family of the young woman sent the couple a bouquet of flowers along with a card thanking them for saving their daughter’s life.
Miss Lloyd, a 43-year-old mum-of-four, added: ‘It was nice to get the flowers and card because we did not expect to get any thanks.
‘The police have told us she is getting the help she needs, which is a relief.
‘I was just saying to her that nothing is worth losing your life over.
‘There is always something or someone who can help you.
‘She was just crying and crying with her back to us. I got her to turn round and she was clinging on.
‘I put my hands through the mesh and tried to hold on to her fingers.
‘I said: “Come on, let’s get in the car and have a girly chat” and eventually she did.’
Mr Smith, of Farringdon Road, West Leigh, said the situation was made even more poignant by the fact there were already flowers on the 300ft bridge marking the spot where other people had met their deaths.
The fencing was reinforced in 2008 and raised up to 7ft after complaints by former Portsmouth North MP Sarah McCarthy-Fry and Bedhampton police that it was not secure enough.
Signs on the bridge put up by the Samaritans say: ‘Desperate, lonely, suicidal?’ and give the charity’s contact number.
If you are feeling low or in need of help call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.