When there’s a problem in public, it’s often a reminder of the power of the bystander effect — a psychological phenomenon where people tend to ignore the problem, thinking “someone else will deal with it.”
But when one man saw a teenager in danger, he had no thoughts of leaving it to someone else. He decided to do whatever he could to help out. As it turned out, it was that one man’s help that would make all the difference…
On a Monday evening in January, Joseph Beltran was out driving with his wife. The sun had set about a half hour ago, cooling down the warm weather that stuck around even in the winter months in southern California. They were traveling down the 210 freeway through Azusa, an area in Los Angeles County.
They had just left a family member’s home when Joseph and his wife saw what looked like a teenager sitting on top of the chain link fence that lined the sides of the Cerritos Avenue overpass along the freeway. She seemed to be very upset…
Joseph also noticed 2 people nearby, also very upset. One of them was speaking urgently into a cell phone, leaving Joseph to believe that these two people were the girl’s family and they were calling the police.
Do What You Can
Not ones to shy away from helping a person in need, when Joseph’s wife pulled the car over and told him to try and talk with the teenaged girl, he headed right toward her. He wasn’t sure if he could do anything to help but he would never forgive himself if he didn’t try…
On The Fence
When he got closer to the girl, it was clear that she was in a terrible state of mind. With tears in her eyes, she had definitely gotten on top of the fence on the side of the overpass with the intention of jumping. Now, she was struggling with the idea of going through with it.
She refused to listen to her worried family members who were trying to talk to her from the end of the bridge. “Man, it was really scary,” said Joseph. “I came over here and she was facing the freeway, crying, and she was a little hysterical.”…
Talk Her Down
“I was talking to her,” Joseph said. He was trying to talk her into climbing back over the fence to safety but “she started getting a little closer and closer to the edge.” Seeing that that plan wasn’t working, and knowing that the police were on their way, Joseph switched tactics.
Keep Her Talking
“I asked her name,” Joseph said. He wanted to get the girl talking so he asked her about her family, if she had siblings, anything he could think of, just to keep her talking for as long as possible. “I was just trying to buy time,” he said. He knew the police were on the way and he was hoping she could keep her alive long enough for them to arrive…
It worked for a while. The girl, still in tears, began to open up to Joseph about who she was and why she was out there on the overpass. But then something terrible happened. “After a while, she started slipping,” Joseph said.
Both In Peril
Joseph acted quickly, giving little thought to his own safety. He immediately scrambled up and over the chain link fence and grabbed the teenager’s sweater and arm. “I was headfirst hanging over the fence,” he said. Joseph had no intention of letting go…
Not The Way
Still holding onto the girl, Joseph never gave up talking to her. With the possibility of her suicide closer than ever, “I was trying to coax her out of it,” he said, “I was talking to her, telling her ‘This is not the way.’ She was telling me ‘Let me go. Let me go,’” he added.
Help Has Arrived
Eventually, the first police officers and firefighters arrived on the scene and were able to give Joseph a hand. “I got a boost from an officer and another lady that was here,” Joseph said. “I was fearing for her safety. I tried to make sure that she was ok.”…
Shut Down The Scene
In order to reduce the risk of death to the teenager and the people trying to rescue her, the police shut down the traffic on the freeway going underneath the underpass. That meant that if she did end up falling of the bridge, she would at least not be hit by a car upon landing.
One of the officers handed Joseph a pair of handcuffs, which he used to fasten the girl’s arm to the fence. Another officer grabbed a hold of her sweater through the fence, further anchoring her in place. Though she wasn’t completely out of danger, it finally seemed more likely that the teen would live rather than die…
As more emergency personnel arrived on the scene, they were able to settle things down further. “Fire personnel utilized a ladder, with a firefighter tethered by a safety harness, to gain full control over the teen,” said officer Mike Bires…
“They were then able to cut a large hole in the chain link fence and move her to safety of the sidewalk,” Bires said. Her family rushed to embrace her, beyond relieved that that night wouldn’t be the last of her life…
The teenager was immediately rushed to a local hospital for treatment. Some of the officers went to the hospital as well, due to puncture wounds and lacerations they got from the fence during the half hour it took to rescue the teen.
Way To Go, Joe!
The police department released a statement praising Joseph’s efforts, saying “Great job by Joseph Beltran on his quick response and bravery in helping to save a teen’s life. On behalf of Chief Steve Hunt, the men and women of the Azusa Police Department, the LA County Fire Department, and a grateful community – ‘Thank you, Joey.’”…
I’m No Hero
Joseph played down his role in preventing the teenager’s suicide. “It as a group effort,” he said. “I’m glad I got help,” he added with a chuckle,”from the police department and the fire department that came and saved the young lady’s life…
You Can Make It
If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts, please get the help you need to make it through. You can make a free, confidential call to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-273-8255.