MILLCREEK — As Utah Highway Patrol Cpl. Nick Swallow approached the overpass, he could see a trembling woman who seemed to be having trouble holding on.
“I could see that she was on the outside of the fence. She was clenching the fence on that small ledge and was shaking,” he said.
Swallow had to find that difficult balance of acting quickly, but not approaching the suicidal woman with such aggression that he scared the woman into jumping.
In the end, Swallow, UHP trooper Mike Funk and several others, including a bystander, were able to save the woman’s life by holding her so she wouldn’t jump or fall off of the ledge until emergency crews could get her down.
The heroic rescue began about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday when motorists called 911 to report a woman was on the edge of the 3300 South overpass spanning I-215 on the east bench, threatening to jump. Swallow, who was close by, arrived at the scene and found the woman in “obvious distress,” UHP Sgt. Todd Royce said.
Another woman who saw what was happening was already talking to the woman, trying to calm her down, Swallow said. He parked his patrol car at the bottom of the overpass, walked up to the two women and had the bystander introduce him. His goal, he said, was to not startle the woman who was about to jump.
“It is a tough thing to balance. Because we want to charge in and we want to help people. That’s our job. But in situations like this, you have to be able to calm down, slow down, think of what’s best, think of what different outcomes are possible, take it slow and do what’s right.”
The woman was standing on the north side of the bridge. There is a chain-link fence on both sides of the bridge. The woman, in her 40s, was on the outside of the fence.
Swallow assured the woman he was there to help her.
“I was able to let her know that she wasn’t going to be arrested. That was one of the concerns that she had. I told her that she had my word that I wasn’t going to arrest her, that I was here to help her,” he said.
Swallow said he was able to build some trust with the woman. But she refused to come off the ledge and on the other side of the fence unless her husband was there.
“She said only her husband would be able to get her down,” he said.
The husband was contacted and arrived quickly. At that point, Swallow said he, Funk, the husband and the bystander were all talking to the woman.
At that point, the husband “grabbed her sweater through the fence. That’s when myself and trooper Funk looked at each other and we knew we had to do something then, because obviously a sweater isn’t going to hold her. So we jumped up on the barrier, reached over the fence and interlocked our arms under hers,” Swallow said.
By this point, Swallow said the woman was having a hard time hanging on.
“She was very tired. Her legs were trembling. Her arms were trembling. It was a small ledge, 2 1/2 to 3 inches at the most. Only part of her heel was on the ledge,” he said.
To further prevent her from falling, each trooper grabbed one of the woman’s wrists and handcuffed them to the chain-link fence.
“And at that time, she let go off the ledge and just let all of her weight go,” Swallow said.
Additional help from the Unified Police Department and the Utah Department of Transportation also responded. They cut a hole in the fence using bolt cutters, “pulled her through and saved her life,” Royce said.
Swallow said they pulled her legs through the fence opening first, and then took the handcuffs off once she was off the ledge.
“At this point, she just turned and gave me a hug as well as her husband a hug and said, ‘Thank you,'” he said.
Unified police described the actions of the troopers as “incredible acts of heroism.”
“I think the difference, honestly, was the support of everyone,” Swallow said.
The woman was taken to University Hospital after the incident.
The freeway was shut down between 4500 South and 3300 South for a brief time during the incident, snarling traffic for the morning commute.
The Utah Department of Health reminds all residents that suicide prevention help can be found at and the national crisis hotline is 1-800-784-2433.