MIDWEST CITY, Okla. - Three airmen are being hailed as heroes after helping save a woman from jumping off an interstate overpass earlier this week.
Capt. Justin Phelps and 1st Lt. Camden Rogers were on their way back from lunch, waiting to turn south onto Air Depot Blvd. at Tinker Diagonal/I-40 at about 1:00 p.m. Wednesday.
“Stopped at the red light and looked towards our left and a woman was on the top of the overpass and looking over, visibly crying and upset,” said Rogers of Destin, Florida.
“It didn’t look like a good situation. So we did what anyone would have done; just stopped the truck, got out and went over to see how she was doing,” said Phelps, of Frederick, Maryland. “I’ve had too many friends – military or otherwise – that have not reached out prior to taking the act and they’re no longer with us. So it’s good to have, to be able to help someone.”
Rogers, 25, and Phelps, 37, who are members of the 552nd Air Control Wing, based at Tinker Air Force Base, scrambled up the grassy embankment and hopped over the ledge as interstate traffic whizzed by.
“The world’s busy, we get too wrapped up to notice what’s going on around us,” said Phelps. “And if somebody’s having a bad day, sometimes it just takes, asking a good wingman, to talk to and talk to each other.”
Phelps and Rogers say the woman was crying and said “nobody cared about her anymore.”
“Which – we’re like, ‘Hey, we’re here for you,'” said Rogers.
So was Tech. Sgt. Corey Irwin, who spotted Rogers and Phelps running up to the I-40 overpass and woman and then realized what was going on. He pulled his truck into the median of Air Depot Blvd. and blocked traffic and ran out to talk to the woman from below.
“My instinct was, ‘Maybe I could catch her,’” said the 29-year-old from Marshfield, Missouri. “Probably unrealistic. But – if nothing else – it was a human face for her to see and to distract her.”
Irwin – who is also in the 552nd – says he began talking to the 31-year-old woman, providing enough of a distraction for Rogers and Phelps to get close enough to her and start a conversation.
“Just getting physical contact, rubbing the back, a hug,” said Phelps. “Just saying, ‘Hey! How are you doing? What’s your name?’”
A simple question, a human touch, and three caring airmen being wingmen for a woman in a time of crisis.
Midwest City Police say once officers arrived, the woman was taken in to protective custody and is now receiving help.
“This courageous action speaks volumes,” said Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes in a letter to Tinker Base Commander Colonel Kenyon Bell. “And also reflects highly on the United States Air Force.”
“From a law enforcement standpoint, this mental health crisis had the strong potential of a violent and tragic outcome,” Clabes continued. “But was diverted through unselfish actions by active military members of Tinker Air Force Base.”
“You just got to show them that there is love in this world,” said Irwin. “And there are people that love them and that care about them.”