After volunteering at a local food bank on Tuesday, Brandon, Man., natives Calder Anderson and Nolan Ritchie decided to showcase their city to Wheat Kings teammates Jake Chiasson and Ben Thornton. As they were driving, the group spotted a man standing next to a light pole between north and south-bound bridges.
“The other guys in the car told me to turn around and we went back, heading north over the bridge,” Ritchie recalled to . “He was sitting there and pointing down at us and we were like, ‘That’s kind of weird.’”
Shortly after making this discovery, Ritchie made a U-turn and pulled up approximately 20 feet from the man on the bridge. Upon arriving, Anderson rolled down the car window to ask how he was feeling and quickly found out that he was in distress.
“I got out of the car and asked him if he was OK,” Anderson said. “He informed me that things weren’t great for him and he was having some pretty bad thoughts, so I asked him if we could get some help and he agreed.
“I think the biggest thing in that situation is just to ask the person if they need help, and as soon as I asked, you could see the relief on his face knowing he had someone to care for him.”
While that transpired, Chiasson took action and dialled 911 on his phone from inside the car, informing emergency responders of the situation. Luckily, authorities were only five minutes away from their location.
Before they arrived, another person stopped on the bridge and attempted to help disarm the delicate situation. But that didn’t ease the stress the players were feeling in that moment.
“Life is kind of at a standstill for those couple of minutes,” Chiasson said. “You have the adrenalin pumping a little bit and it’s a situation you’re never taught to be in. It’s just whatever comes out from within is how you handle it.”
Even with help on the way, the players endured plenty of heart-wrenching moments with the man, who was just inches away from dropping to the railway tracks below. And their hearts started beating even faster every time he changed positions.
“It was scary, some moments,” Anderson said. “He would get up and that’s when your heart starts to beat a little faster and things get a little scarier. I didn’t get too close to him. I didn’t want him to feel any more pressure or anxiety than he was already feeling.”
Police officers rescued the individual shortly after arriving at the scene, lifting him away from the ledge and to safety. Officials later revealed that he underwent treatment and appears to be doing fine.
Brandon Police Service Staff Sgt. Bill Brown spoke to reporters afterwards, expressing his appreciation of the Wheat Kings players’ efforts. If not for them, the situation could’ve played out much differently.
“It’s four young guys who were at Samaritan House already, and continued to provide a community service with no one really watching,” Brown said. “They did something above and beyond.”
Once everything wrapped up, the players returned to their car and drove home after nearly witnessing a suicide attempt. That led to a pretty quiet car ride, although they did eventually begin to open up.
“I don’t know what I would have done if I saw him jump off the bridge,” Thornton said. “We’re very happy that we were able to save him and get him some help.”
The group also realized that 30-40 vehicles passed by during the incident, with none stopping to investigate as they did. But they never once thought about departing until the man was safe.
After all, that’s a lesson they’ve learned throughout their lives: everyone needs help sometimes.
“I think it’s just something that all of our parents and this organization have taught,” Chiasson said. “It’s about picking each other up and just caring for everyone.
“You don’t know what situation people are going through. Sometimes all it takes is just getting out to give them a little help or conversation.”
If there’s one thing the hockey community should take away from this story: it’s that there are good people in this world.
“There is a bit of a stereotype of junior hockey players not being the best guys,” Anderson said. “I’ve known these guys for a while and everyone is kind and a great person. A lot of people don’t get to see us off the ice.
“It sucks that something like this has to happen for people to realize that we are better people than a lot of people think. We’re just like everyone else, and we’re going to look out for each other.”
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