Hawkins suicide jumper held dangling over bridge by FedEx driver until deputy arrived

Jeff Bobo • Updated Sep 26, 2018 at 8:45 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Federal Express driver Garrett Nicholson made an unscheduled stop near Rogersville Tuesday evening where he delivered a second chance at life to a woman in distress.

He grabbed a woman who attempted to jump off the Marble Hall Road bridge, and held her by one arm dangling 35-40 feet above the rocky bed of Caney Creek for five minutes until the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office arrived.

Nicholson, who also happened to be celebrating his 42nd birthday Tuesday, told the Times News Wednesday that the five minutes he held the woman seemed like hours, and he was thankful when HCSO Cpl. Mark Harrell arrived and helped him pull her to safety.

“I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to hold her,” Nicholson said. “Fortunately, where I work at FedEx, I load boxes all day, and you kind of get used to holding on to heavy things. I was just really scared that she was going to fall, and it was kind of one of those things that you just keep praying to God for strength to keep holding her until someone arrived to help me.”

Shortly after 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nicholson had just completed a delivery on Marble Hall Road just west of Rogersville when he noticed a vehicle in the middle of the road and woman sitting on the edge of the Marble Hall bridge over Caney Creek.

Nicholson stopped and asked a bystander if the woman was OK. The bystander replied that he thought she was going to jump.

Nicholson pulled his FedEx truck up to block traffic and then slowly approached the 54-year-old woman while trying to “talk her down.”

“I got within arm’s reach, because she wasn’t listening or anything,” Nicholson said. “She seemed pretty out of it. She kind of lurched forward (to jump), and I was able to grab her by the arm and pretty much held her like that for like five minutes.”

He added, “She just went dead weight and was dangling off the side of the bridge. It seemed like it was hours, but it was maybe five minutes.”

Nicholson didn’t have the strength to pull her back up to safety on his own, and he said the bystander seemed confused and didn’t know what to do and wasn’t any help.

“It’s about a 35-40 foot drop,” he said. “My biggest concern is the water level was down. If she would have jumped, she’d have probably hit ground. She’d have landed in water and hit the rocks too because there wasn’t enough water to break her fall.”

Nicholson added, “She made comments like, ‘He’s never going to hurt me again,’ and some of it was nonsensical and more rambling. She’s got a bad home life is what it sounded like to me, and at the moment she felt suicide was the better option. Fortunately, the deputy showed up in enough time, and between him and I, we were able to lift her up and back over the side. He got her in handcuffs and got her somewhere she can get some help.”

When Harrell arrived and they were able to get her pulled up over the ledge, Nicholson noticed she had a leather belt tied around her neck. He didn’t know what that was for because when he encountered the woman her intent was to jump off the bridge.

The Times News doesn’t identify victims of suicide or attempted suicide.

Harrell stated in his report that as the woman was being pulled to safety, she stated, “She just couldn’t do it anymore.”

The HCSO told the Times News that the woman was taken for an emergency committal and mental evaluation. 

This incident occurred close to the end of Nicholson’s shift, and he had about 10 more stops to go.

As he completed his Tuesday shift, and even into Wednesday, Nicholson said he had been praying for the woman he saved.

“There’s no problem in this life that is worth suicide,” he said. “Problems are temporary. That’s permanent and nothing is that bad. I don’t know what darkness she was going through that made jumping the better alternative. I just hope it gets better for her. I hope she gets help.”

And what did he take away from this experience?

“Don’t take life for granted. Be more appreciative of what you’ve got.”

Kingsport Times News Videos