Route 46 was closed down and an air mattress was inflated beneath a Bergen County overpass as police tried to convince a troubled 15-year-old not to jump.
Officers found the Saddle Brook teen perilously perched on the Outwater Lane overpass in Garfield, near the Lodi border, around 10 p.m. Tuesday, Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler said.
“The parents said the youth left the home in a crisis state of mind,” Kugler said Wednesday. “They were deeply concerned for the juvenile’s well-being.”
The teen, apparently upset over a conflict involving a life choice, had climbed the curved fence and was on the concrete bridge parapet, looking down.
“It seemed like the youth was planning to jump,” Kugler said.
Police immediately summoned a Saddle Brook Fire Department ladder truck and a member of the Bergen County Regional Crisis Negotiation Team. Firefighters inflated an air mattress below.
Meanwhile, Saddle Brook Police Officer Kimberly Diaz a CIT-NJ graduate Class #92 kept the troubled teen engaged.
“The juvenile felt more comfortable speaking with Officer Diaz and requested that she be the lone negotiator,” the chief explained.
After about an hour of conversation, Diaz convinced the teen to come to safety. A trip to New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus for an evaluation and referral for treatment followed.
“Officer Diaz deserves praise and admiration for her professional duty,” Kugler said. “Whatever was said between them avoided a tragic outcome.”
Fire Chief Joseph Polizzotti agreed.
“There can be no doubt that Officer Diaz’s calm, professional manner defused a very tense situation and led to the best possible outcome,” he said.
Asked what it took, Diaz “simply said that she believed him,” Kugler said. “Because she did….Sometimes, that’s all it takes.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Or text CONNECT to 741-741.