Home of Rogersville FedEx driver who saved suicide jumper destroyed by fire

Jeff Bobo • Sep 30, 2018 at 7:45 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The Rogersville Federal Express delivery driver who saved a woman attempting suicide Tuesday evening, had his own family saved Saturday night by fate and good timing when a fire that destroyed their home occurred while they were gone.

But the Garrett Nicholson family did lose all their belongings Saturday night in a house fire attributed to a faulty electrical outlet. 

Nicholson was driving his delivery route when the fire started at his home Saturday, just as he was Tuesday evening when he stopped to see if he could help a woman sitting on the ledge of the Caney Creek bridge on Marble Hall Road just west of Rogersville.

As he approached the woman she reportedly tried to jump.

Nicholson grabbed her by the arm and held her by one arm dangling 35-40 feet above the rocky bed of Caney Creek for five minutes until a deputy from the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office arrived and helped him pull her up.

Nicholson has received a lot of attention since the events at the bridge became widely known. 

Life was just beginning to get back to normal when disaster struck Saturday.

Nicholson, his wife, Patrice, and their 6-year-old daughter, Bryndel, were in the process of moving to a house in Kingsport.

They were going to start moving the big items Sunday when Garrett was off, and he was working Saturday evening while Patrice and Bryndel delivered some small items to their new home.

The Rogersville Fire Department was dispatched to their home on Pine Street at 5:49 p.m.

"I had moved some of our clothes, some picture, some odds and ends myself in our truck, and I hadn't been here (at the new house) 10 minutes when my mom called," Patrice told the Times News on Sunday. "She said the neighbor called the landlord, and the landlord called my mom to tell us that our house was on fire.”

The fire department told the Nicholsons they suspect the fire started in the living room. An outlet where the air conditioner was plugged in apparently shorted out.

"Garrett was able to get there quick because he was in Rogersville doing his route, and he spoke to the fire chief," Patrice said. "It started in the living room. What wasn't burnt or melted from the heat is smoke damaged. There's nothing salvageable. All our furniture is gone. Furniture, clothes, appliances — everything is gone."

As of Sunday, they were staying in a Kingsport motel with the assistance of the American Red Cross because they have no furniture for their new house.

Although the fire is a family disaster, it could have been much worse. It could have happened in the middle of the night while they were all sleeping.

Their pets were also spared. They have a new puppy that has "separation anxiety" and chews up things when left alone, so Patrice decided to bring it with them Saturday evening when they took items to the new house.

Because she took the puppy, Patrice felt guilty about leaving their other dog home alone and brought it along as well. Both undoubtedly would have perished in the fire had they been left at home.

And the fact that they have a new home ready to move into already is fortunate. But they have no furniture and only a few items of clothing, and they didn't have renters insurance, so they'll have to replace everything on their own.

A friend has started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the Nicholsons.

Patrice said anyone who has furniture or other items they'd like to donate to them can call her at (423) 358-8396.

Garrett didn't sleep at all Saturday night, Patrice said.

"He just kept thinking about the what ifs," she added. "What if me and our daughter had been sleeping. It could have been so much worse. He said, ‘You'd think I'd have some good karma points built up after that, but apparently not.’ "

Patrice added, "It's been the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The next day (after the suicide jumper rescue) he didn't get in from work until almost midnight because every customer wanted to stop and talk to him. And everywhere he goes people are coming up. He's not really a people person, and he's like, 'This is kind of weird, all this notoriety'. But we're super proud of him."

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