Sussex couple recognised for saving suicidal man’s life

A Sussex couple who went ‘above and beyond’ to save a suicidal man’s life have been recognised.

Monday, 16th December 2019, 2:13 pm

Paul and Agy O’Brien were on their way to pick up their daughter from her first day of nursery when they spotted a man standing between the train tracks at Wivelsfield railway station in West Sussex.

Concerned he was going to do himself harm, the couple, from Burgess Hill, who both work for Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), put their life-saving skills into action and managed to get him to a safe place.

They have since been recognised by GTR for their life-saving intervention earlier in the year during a special ceremony held at GTR headquarters.

Paul and Agy O’Brien. Picture: Govia Thameslink Railway
Paul and Agy O’Brien. Picture: Govia Thameslink Railway

Tom Moran, Thameslink and Great Northern managing director, who hosted the ceremony, said: “We are really proud of Paul and Agy who went above and beyond to ensure the safety of a vulnerable young man.

“They are both real credits to the business who showed kindness and professionalism in helping him.”

Agy approached the young man and managed to get him talking, signalling to Paul that he was distressed so that Paul could raise the alarm with railway staff, GTR said.

Paul, a multi skilled team leader at Gatwick Airport railway station, got straight on the phone to colleagues at the control centre and advised them of a potentially suicidal man and requested that all trains through the area were cautioned.

Picture: Govia Thameslink Railway

He also alerted Sussex Police and organised to meet them nearby to take them to the location, which otherwise would have been difficult to find.

By the time Paul and the police arrived, Agy had managed to get the young man to a less dangerous spot. But the young man started running away when he saw Paul and the officers approaching.

Concerned he would return another time to do himself harm, Paul chased after him and was able to catch up with him after about 300 metres.

Paul said: “I told him ‘we’re here to help – I know you need help and I will get you that help.’ After a couple of minutes the young man broke down. I said ‘these guys [the police] are here to help you. You’re not in trouble’.”

Paul was able to leave the young man in the care of the police, who had also by that point built a rapport with him, GTR said. After picking up their daughter, they walked back past the group and Paul double-checked everyone was OK.

Praising his wife, Paul said: “Agy is a volunteer with the rail care team and she’s very good at being a shoulder for everyone.

“She has a very soft here-to-help approach and it worked well in this situation because the young man started opening up.”

During his 13 years working on the railway, Paul has dealt with four fatalities, three electrocutions, nine cardiac arrests and eight suicide preventions.

GTR driver manager Lisa Stacey, who nominated them, said: “I have known Paul since I joined Southern five years ago when I worked alongside him at Gatwick. He consistently puts his customers at the heart of everything he does.

“Being a first aider, he is always first on the scene and very confident at dealing with all kinds of incidents and accidents, so much so we named him Dr Paul. Paul certainly goes the extra mile in customer service and lifesaving.”