Home Fire News Bridge jumper saved after firefighter requests to purchase rescue air cushion

Bridge jumper saved after firefighter requests to purchase rescue air cushion

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When firefighters in San Diego used to rescue a suicidal man last week, they had one of their own to thank- a SDFD firefighter who requested the apparatus after being wounded in a stabbing.

Benjamin Vernon was stabbed in the lung while attending a medical call in June of 2015. When he was visited by Chief Javier Mainer, the senior firefighter asked if Vernon had any requests.

“The first thing he said was ‘Ben, what can I get you?’ And he probably meant ‘could I get you a cup of water,’ but I took that as the opportunity,” said Vernon. “I said ‘Chief, now that I got you here, I want to buy a rescue air cushion to save potential jumpers off bridges.”

A year prior to being splayed upon an operating table in the Emergency room, Vernon had responded to the scene of a 19-year-old girl threatening to jump to her death. After three hours of negotiation, she leapt from an overpass and died at his feet.

“She landed at my feet, opened her eyes, spoke to me a few times and then she died,” said Vernon.

Later on, when Vernon was in court to testify against the man who stabbed him, he discovered the department had decided to buy the $15,000 giant airbag, which can break the fall of a person jumping from over 100 feet.

“I was in court waiting to testify and I got the text, and that made feel really good and helped me kind of relaxed and testify,” said Vernon.

While Vernon’s airbag was used to save a life more recently, it did not break the suicidal man’s fall. Instead, it forced him to jump into some bushes.

“I actually called for the deployment of the bag in a chance if he fell off the rail, he would actually fall on the bag,” SDPD Lt. Mark Bennett told NBC San Diego. “He saw the rescue air cushion, and he didn’t want to go for that, but he landed in the bushes and we saved the day anyway. It feels like a win for me.”

Previous story of stabbing here.

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