It must have been a tense moment for Durham Police Officer Bob Baumgartner to decide whether to stay on the shoulder of Highway 401 or to jump into the traffic to save a life.
Fortunately, at great risk, he chose the latter – and saved a distraught man without any accident or injury to anyone. The incident happened at the end of last August (see below).
Cst. Baumgartner received a Chief’s Commendation from Police Chief Rollauer, for risking his life to save a man in distress. He is a Durham Hero.
Following is the officer’s story in his own words:
“There were multiple 911 calls about a man straddling the overpass over Brock Street in Whitby. I responded, and as I arrived, I observed the man walking down the embankment. I followed the man, and while following him, tried to speak with him and tried to get him to stop and talk.
He was very clearly upset and distraught. He stopped right at the shoulder of the road, the 401 for the westbound lanes, and turned towards me before stepping into the first lane of traffic. The traffic managed to come to a halt for the male. He then looked at me, said goodbye and stepped into the next lane of the 401 in the path of an oncoming transport truck.
I was on the side of the road. I heard the air brakes of the transport truck, and essentially rushed the male, pushing him off the roadway. Where we then had a bit of a wrestling match trying to stop him from getting back on the roadway. He yelled repeatedly asking for me to let him get back onto the highway. It was not fun.
At that point other officers arrived and were able to assist me in the safe apprehension of the male. Our mental health response unit also attended the scene and was able to ensure prompt care was rendered to the male.
There were no injuries, but he was taken to hospital. He wasn’t arrested. He was apprehended under the Mental Health Act.
It probably was one of the most nerve-racking experiences that I’ve had on the job. It did impact me for a period of time following the incident.
But I’m very relieved that everybody was okay – myself, that male, as well as all the people who were traveling on the 401. I’m good.
Question of Choices
I’ve been on the job for just over seven years. And I love every second of it. It’s a phenomenal job and it’s these kind of moments that – although after, I had a lot of mixed emotions – in hindsight, I’m very thankful that I made the choices that I made.
I think it’s part of the job that some people don’t realize – the inherent risks. I know a lot of the comments and stuff that I’ve seen on social media where it’s part of the job and this and that, and to a degree it is.
But it’s about the choices we make. I could have made the choice to remain on the shoulder [of the road] and communicate with the male.
I got the commendation. It goes up on my wall and I feel very, very humbled, and very honored.
But it was a collaborative effort. The other officers that came to assist were incredibly helpful. And the fact that Durham Regional Police has a mental health response unit that was able to help quickly coordinate resources, and get that male the best help available in Durham region.”
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