Officers praise training that saved woman

Published 8:15 pm Thursday, June 27, 2013

(Left to right) Lt. Curtis Muhannad, Sgt. Evelyn Ghant and officer Harry Tubbs of the Selma Police Department stand tall Thursday after recalling the rescue of a woman who jumped into the Alabama River Monday in an alleged suicide attempt. --Katie Wood

(Left to right) Lt. Curtis Muhannad, Sgt. Evelyn Ghant and officer Harry Tubbs of the Selma Police Department stand tall Thursday after recalling the rescue of a woman who jumped into the Alabama River Monday in an alleged suicide attempt. –Katie Wood

After jumping off a cliff high above the Alabama River in an alleged suicide attempt Monday, a woman was rescued and revived thanks to the efforts of the Selma Fire Department, Selma Police Department and private citizens who allowed their boat to be commandeered by officers.

Those officers who struggled to balance themselves on a boat while reaching in to the water to pull the woman back to life, put their own life at risk — but they said it’s “all part of the job.” And while Lt. Curtis Muhannad, Sgt. Evelyn Ghant and officer Harry Tubbs, were just doing their jobs, they still experienced the raw, human emotions that occur when recovering and then reviving what appeared to be a lifeless body.

Muhannad, Ghant and Tubbs have each been with the Selma Police Department for 11 years and when they got the call to respond to the situation near the intersection of Water Avenue and Church Street Monday, they said their training kicked in.

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“When we arrived at the scene Lt. (John) Brock asked if somebody would go down to the marina and check and see if a boat was there,” Muhannad said. “We went down there to the marina and we saw (J.R.) Lowe (and his cousins) getting ready to move his boat trailer and truck down the ramp. We stopped them and said that we’d like to ask his assistance to take us up the river near the bridge, because we had a jumper. We had to see if we could recover her from the water.”

Muhannad said Lowe and his family were ready and willing to help, and when the boat reached the bank where the woman, who the police said must still remain unidentified, was floating they saw that she was unconscious.

“She was floating on her back. All we saw was maybe parts of her hands and just the circle part of her face. Everything else was submerged,” Muhannad said, who admitted at this point in the rescue their adrenaline was high. “It’s natural to look over and see her and think, ‘Oh we didn’t make it in time.’ We didn’t know what we were going to find.”

The officers worked together to pull her up, out of the water and lay her flat on the boat to perform CPR.

“Our adrenaline was even higher once she was resuscitated,” Tubbs said. “We were high-fiving and everything; at that point we were just ecstatic.”

Ghant said, while they didn’t have training specific to the scenario they were placed in, other things they had been trained in — how to lift a body, how to administer CPR — came in to play.

“We weren’t thinking; we just acted and were trying to save her,” Ghant said, noting that as they administered CPR to the woman, they watched her “come back to life.”

“It’s just a blessing that you can be a part of something like this and bring her back to life. I think that God has a purpose for everything and if she were trying to attempt suicide, we stopped it before it got to that point. I think maybe now she can maybe look at life totally different.”

Ghant said while the situation was intense and possibly life threatening for herself and those attempting the rescue, there was no time to process those emotions.

“To be honest with you, everyone who was on the boat, even the little boy, we didn’t have time to think about our emotion because we were so busy trying — everyone on that boat had a part to play,” she said. “And it was a team effort trying to get this lady out of the river and on the boat. No one on that boat, even the little boy, panicked — not one time.”

Tubbs agreed and said as easy as it is to get hurt in the field, when it’s time to rescue someone, his mind goes into “tunnel vision.”

“Tunnel vision gets to you and you’re trying to get there and there’s nothing else on your mind. You’ve got adrenaline. Chills. It’s rough,” he said. “You never get to a scene where you don’t have that doubt that comes in that this could have been my family, this could have been one of them.”

Muhannad said Monday’s case will be one he’ll remember, noting policing never gets old and there’s no such thing as a routine traffic stop or a routine call.

“Every call is different, and we enter the situation with the knowledge that no call is the same,” he said. “For me, it will stand out because I actually got the chance to see our officers go to work.

“They didn’t think about it, they just did what they were trained to do and that was rescue and revive. I think that’s one of the primary reasons [the woman] is still here with us today.”

The officers said they have not heard from the family since Monday’s incident, but said they plan to follow up with her to make sure she has the things she needs to help herself.