Veteran TARTA driver credited with saving suicidal woman’s life

'I hope to God she gets the help she needs,' driver says

3/29/2013
BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
TARTA driver Geraldine Mitchell says that when she saw a woman hanging from a porch earlier this month, she stopped her bus and, with the help of passengers,  went to the woman’s aid.
TARTA driver Geraldine Mitchell says that when she saw a woman hanging from a porch earlier this month, she stopped her bus and, with the help of passengers, went to the woman’s aid.

Toledo police are crediting a veteran TARTA bus driver with leading a rescue effort that saved a suicidal woman’s life early this month in central Toledo.

Bush
Bush

Geraldine Mitchell, who has driven for the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority for 16 years, said she stopped her bus in the 500 block of West Delaware Avenue on March 9 when she saw what looked at first “like a mannequin” hanging on the porch — “but as I took a longer look, I thought, ‘She is real!’ ”

Three passengers aboard the bus joined her in the rush to help the woman, as did Corey Bush, an off-duty Bryan, Ohio, police officer who happened to be leaving neighboring Rosary Cathedral in a vehicle following a relative’s confirmation ceremony there.

Mr. Bush said he and one of the passengers lifted the woman up so Ms. Mitchell could untie the orange, outdoors-grade extension cord with which she had hanged herself. Then they let her down on the porch and Ms. Mitchell began cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

“I started CPR on her and he [Mr. Bush] was rubbing her back,” the bus driver said. “I saw some color start to come back, and she started breathing again.”

Emergency medical responders arrived shortly thereafter.

Sgt. Joseph Heffernan, spokesman for the Toledo Police Department, said department staff have recommended to an awards committee that Ms. Mitchell, Mr. Bush, and the three bus passengers — identified in a report as Christopher Harris, Larry Malone, and Jeffery Eskridge — all receive the department’s Meritorious Public Service Award.

“Without their action, she would have died,” the sergeant said.

Mr. Bush agreed that Ms. Mitchell’s response saved the life of the woman. He said it was the bus having stopped with its hazard lights running and its occupants running across the street that caught his attention after leaving the church.

“It was nice to see a bunch of strangers helping somebody,” Mr. Bush said. “Everybody there was worried about her, making sure she got help.”

The Bryan police officer said he next went into the house and discovered a nonresponsive male lying on a couch in an upstairs apartment. Rescue personnel determined him to be a possible drug-overdose victim. Both were taken to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center.

Neither person was listed as a patient at that hospital this week.

Sergeant Heffernan said police are still trying to unravel the circumstances that led to the incident, but noted that officers had been to the house six hours earlier in response to a complaint from the woman, who said the man had threatened her. The man denied the accusation and no one was charged.

Police have been unable to interview either party since the incident, the sergeant said. No one was home when a Blade reporter visited the residence Thursday afternoon.

Ms. Mitchell said that after interviewing with Toledo police detectives who came to the scene, she resumed driving her bus route.

“I can’t get it out of my head — I look whenever I go by” the house, Ms. Mitchell said.

The bus driver and Tom Metzger, the transit authority’s superintendent of transportation, said drivers are taught to scan their surroundings as they drive their routes, to be alert to other traffic and observe potential riders running toward bus stops.

Ms. Mitchell said she didn’t give any thought to the possibility she might be putting herself in danger.

“If I see anybody who needs help, I’m going to try to help them,” she said.

Ms. Mitchell said the man inside the house had, several weeks later, happened to board a bus she was driving and she recognized him. He told her both he and the woman were recovering.

“I hope to God she gets the help she needs. She deserved a second chance, whatever went wrong that day,” Ms. Mitchell said.

“I am so glad she is doing OK. I just want her to get her life together.”

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.