For the third time in seven months, Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies and members of the Palm Coast Fire Department and Flagler County Fire Rescue late Tuesday night talked a 17-year-old girl down from the I-95 overpass at Palm Coast Parkway.
The girl, a B-Section resident who lives with her father, had walked on the overpass’s ledge on the side of a metal barrier facing traffic, as she had the two times before, in June and July.
“It’s OK, we’re going to help you down, but you’re going to keep holding on, ok?” one of the first deputies at the scene told her as she kept inching her way toward the center of the span.
“Leave me alone,” she told the two cops, one of whom told her a female cop was on her way: from previous experience, the deputies knew the girl did not like to deal with male authorities. But she kept walking. Traffic in both directions was halted. She told deputies she had swallowed pills and that it was “too late.” At 11:50, when a female deputy had arrived, the girl allowed her to hold her hand.
“Jumping off this bridge is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, OK?” the deputy tells her, according to body camera video of the incident, parts of which the Sheriff’s Office issued today. “There’s things that you can work through and get past this, but you’ll never know if you don’t try to come back over on this side, OK?” The deputy tells her she was not in trouble.
Rather than handcuff her to the metal barrier or transfer her through a fire department’s ladder-truck bucket, as had been done previously, members of the sheriff’s Crisis Negotiations Team persuaded her to walk back along the ledge to the edge of the bridge, where they could secure her. As in previous occasions, the girl was Baker Acted at Halifax hospital. On those previous occasions, she was eventually released back to the custody of her father.
“This is another outstanding rescue by all involved,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “The quick response and combined efforts of FCSO deputies, Crisis Negotiations, Communications Center, Fire Rescue, and the deputies holding the juvenile’s hand saved her life again. Their training in de-escalation techniques and being able to talk to someone who’s threatening to take their life is remarkable. I commend everyone who stepped up for this child’s life for the third time in six months. This child continues to need significant help and I am once again asking the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and her parents to get this juvenile the help she needs before it is too late. We have also asked the Florida Department of Transportation to access how they can secure the bridge to prevent acts like this but so far have not had any action.”
There are numerous resources for help with mental health struggles in Flagler County. For more information visit FlaglerLifeline or call 800-273-8255.