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Welsh Ambulance Service colleagues talk down distraught man from bridge

A PAIR of Welsh Ambulance Service colleagues undertaking a routine hospital transfer have been praised for their quick-thinking actions to save a man’s life.

It was a rainy June morning in Cardiff and business as usual for Philip Spiteri and Ed Downing.

The Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service (NEPTS) staff were travelling from the University Hospital of Wales to Pentwyn, westbound along the busy A48 Eastern Avenue.

Philip was driving and about to exit off the next slip road when his attention was drawn to a man dressed in black leaning over the steel barriers of the bridge they were crossing.

As they drew closer, the man climbed over the barrier and stood upright facing the speeding traffic on the road below.

“I was sat behind Phil, beginning to put on my PPE when I heard him shout ‘no’ loudly,” said Ed, who has a background in mental health support and addiction work.

“We pulled over and were out in a flash.”

Former South Wales Police traffic officer Philip said: “I pulled our ambulance over and we got out – Ed walked to the left of the man and I took a few paces towards him.

“He drew his arms up from his sides and held them out level with his shoulders.

“I shouted at him ‘What are you up to pal?’ and he turned his head around to face us.”

It was at this point that Philip and Ed were able to engage the distraught man into a conversation that saved his life.

“I asked him to look at me and not the road, to turn around and hold onto the barrier and look at me so we could have a chat,” said Philip

“We could see he was distressed and was crying.”

They kept the man talking and asked if it was alright to move closer.

Ed continued: “The ledge he was on was only about 12 inches wide so it was very precarious but we managed to keep his attention.”

As they approached, Ed was able to make the crucial move and take hold of the man’s arm – between them they brought him to safety and got him into the back of their vehicle.

Ed radioed the emergency control room to request assistance whilst Philip sat with the young man who broke down and spoke of the problems he was facing.

Philip and Ed kept the man in conversation until an emergency ambulance arrived and they were able to explain the situation and safely transfer the man into the ambulance.

“I kept telling him, ‘your life is fine, believe me. Look at me, I’m an old man and I’m still here. It’ll be okay’,” said Phil who also has family liaison experience.

“We got him to ring his mother. We spoke to her and she told us that she’d come straight away.

The emergency medical crew were able to access the crisis team at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and get the intervention and care that the man needed.

A humble Ed said: “We were just in the right place at the right time and we acted on the spur of the moment.”

After the incident, the pair went back to base at Cardiff East station for a de-brief and welfare chat with NEPTS Operations Manager for Cardiff and Vale, Jim Matthews.

Jim said: “I am incredibly proud of the actions Phil and Ed took that day.

“In what were very difficult circumstances they showed true professionalism and care towards a person clearly in crisis.

“They went above the call of duty and stopped the situation escalating into a tragedy, safeguarding the life of the man.

“They are true heroes.”

Assistant Director of Operations for NEPTS, Mark Harris said: “Phil and Ed showed true humanity and compassion.

“Their skilled negotiating and bravery in such a perilous situation is to be commended.

“We are all incredibly proud of them and send our best wishes to the man they helped.”

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