Carl Vinson Sailor Stops Attempted Suicide Atop Coronado Bay Bridge

Story Number: NNS120626-19Release Date: 6/26/2012 10:13:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW/AW) Nicolas Lopez, USS Carl Vinson Public Affairs

CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- A USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Sailor helped prevent a suicide attempt on the Coronado Bay Bridge, June 19.

Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuel) 1st Class (AW/SW) David Lawrence, Air Department's V4 Division maintenance leading petty officer, first responded to a 60-year-old man's suicide attempt approximately 4 a.m. after pulling over to assist with what he thought would be a flat tire.

Lawrence, on his way to the gym before work, saw the car in front of him slow and pull to the side of the bridge near the bridge's apex.

"I saw he was an older guy and he didn't have his hazard [lights] on, so I didn't want him to get hit - and he was in a black Fiat and it was dark out," Lawrence said. "Most people going over the bridge at that time won't be paying attention; they're just trying to wake up."

However, Lawrence's decision to stop was rooted in his deeply held belief that one's actions have direct consequences, either positive or negative.

"I try to help anybody I can. What comes around goes around - I sincerely believe that," Lawrence said. "Somebody is returning the favors. My health is good. My family's health is all good. [So I take] any opportunity I get to help somebody."

As Lawrence asked the driver if he needed assistance, he watched as the man climbed over the concrete barrier and onto the bridge's ledge.

"I stopped right where I was at," Lawrence said. "I put my hands up where he could see them; I didn't want to make any hasty moves."

Lawrence immediately called upon the training he received while deployed in the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) program. Lawrence said the information and intervention skills he learned from the two-day workshop helped him that morning.

"Just ACT: ask, care, treat," Lawrence said. "I didn't get to the 'treat' part; the FBI negotiators and cops got that. But I asked the guy."

Lawrence's actions also proved how important how the "care" aspect is as well. When asked by the police if he wanted to leave the scene, Lawrence declined.

"I told the cops that I was the first one talking to him," Lawrence said. "I don't know if this guy got abandoned by someone and so I didn't want him to see me get in my car and leave. So I stayed there the whole time."

For 15 to 20 minutes, Lawrence talked to the man, trying to prevent him from jumping while also flagging passing drivers to call for assistance. Aware of the magnitude of his choice of words, Lawrence said he talked about his experiences in the U.S. Navy.

"My thought was, 'Please don't jump. How am I going to keep this guy from jumping? What can I possibly say that will make him think it's not worth it?'" Lawrence said. "I just talked about everything I did and tried to let him see that there's positive stuff out there."

California Highway Patrol and San Diego Police Officers arrived approximately 20 minutes after Lawrence's initial communication with the man and assumed suicide prevention efforts. FBI agents, California Highway Patrol and San Diego Police Officers successfully talked the man off the ledge and took him into custody shortly before 7 a.m.

Before his morning was over, an FBI agent informed Lawrence the man wished to see him.

"He was just standing there with a jacket on, looked at me and said, 'Thanks,'" Lawrence said. "I said, 'Hey, man, you made the right choice. I'm glad to see you're on this side of the ledge. Have a good day and be safe.'"

Lawrence, a quiet and humble U.S. Navy Sailor, said he feels little difference since Tuesday morning, shrugging off any accolades given him.

"I'd do it again today, if I had to," Lawrence said. "People are saying I'm a hero and thanking me, but I'd like to think if I didn't do it, somebody would have stopped and did it."

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Sailors man the rails as the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) returns to homeport.
120523-N-GZ832-211 NAVAL BASE CORONADO, Calif. (May 23, 2012) Sailors man the rails as the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) returns to homeport. Carl Vinson and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 recently completed a deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet and U.S. 7th Fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Benjamin Stevens)
May 23, 2012
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