Umpire hailed as hero after saving woman from edge of Pittsburgh bridge

PITTSBURGH — A Major League Baseball umpire is being hailed as a hero after he helped save a woman from the edge of a Pittsburgh bridge on Wednesday.

John Tumpane came upon the scene as he walked across the Roberto Clemente Bridge. He saw a woman climb over a railing and look toward the Allegheny River below.

“Obviously, that grabbed my attention,” Tumpane told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette before a game between the Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays in which he was the home plate umpire.

“I asked a couple in front of me, ‘What’s this lady trying to do?’ and they said, ‘I don’t know.’ ”

Tumpane then approached the woman.

“I just wanted to get a better look of the city from this side,” she replied, according to Tumpane.

“Oh, no,” Tumpane said, hooking his arm around hers. “You don’t want to do that. It’s just as good over here. Let’s go grab some lunch and talk.”

“No, no, no,” she answered. “I’m better off on this side. Just let me go.”

“I’m not going to let you go,” he said. “Let’s talk this out. We’ll get you back over here.”

“No one wants to help me,” she repeated. “Just let me go.”

“No, we’re here to help you,” he said.

“You’ll forget me tomorrow,” she said.

“I’ll never forget you,” he said. “You can have my promise on that.”

Tumpane told a passer-by to call 911. As they spoke, Tumpane said the woman became more emotional, crying and trying to slip from his grip.

Tumpane said he locked his arms around her back and there were times where she dangled both feet off the edge of the bridge.

“I was thinking, ‘God, this has got to be a good ending, not a bad ending,’ and held on for dear life,”  Tumpane said.

“She said, ‘You don’t care about me.’ I said, ‘I care.’ She said, ‘I just want to end it right now. I want to be in a better place.’ I said, ‘You’re going to be all right.’”

A passer-by grabbed the woman’s arm and another pinned her ankles against the bottom rail.

A police boat, helicopter, ambulance, fire truck and police officer arrived. Crew put a life preserver on the woman and handcuffed one of her wrists to the bridge.

“I was just trying to tell her it was going to be all right. There’s help,”  Tumpane said. “We’re going to be better if she can get back on this side. I said, ‘All these people are here. Look at all these people who want to help you. We’re all here for the right reasons. We want to get you better.’”

The woman was placed on a mat when Tumpane kneeled next to her to try to comfort her. He said he asked for her first name, and she gave it, and he prayed for her.

“I told her, ‘I didn’t forget her, and we’d be here, and she’s better off on this side than the other side.’ ” Tumpane said. “I just want her to know that.”

Tumpane said he was shaken by the ordeal but said he hopes to meet the woman Thursday before leaving for his next series.

“It’s a sad day, but it ended on a positive note,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s an eye-opener for her as well, and it can help her get back on track.”