LONGVIEW, Wash. — When Cowlitz County sheriff’s deputies Brad Bauman and Kim Beedle responded to a suicide call near Ostrander Creek earlier this month, they thought they were too late.
When the deputies arrived, they found a pickup with suicide notes left inside.
“We respond to enough successful suicides that, unfortunately, we thought after arriving, and with the stuff in the car how it was, that it was probably going to be a recovery,” Bauman said.
Instead, the two deputies found themselves chasing a 59-year-old man through the woods, ultimately cutting him free from a noose just in time to save his life.
Bauman said around noon, they walked about a half mile into the woods, calling the man’s name and telling him they wanted to talk. That was when they first spotted the man, Bauman said.
“Originally when we saw him, I saw him from a ways away — a hundred yards — and I couldn’t tell at that point if he was moving,” Bauman said.
Beedle said the man was seated upright on a rocky shelf in the creek.
Getting closer, Bauman saw a brightly-colored rope lying nearby, but couldn’t see what the man was doing. He said he tried to call out from a safe distance, but the sound of the rushing water drowned him out.
“I think he thought he was pretty hidden where he was, and that nobody would find him,” Beedle said.
As the deputies moved closer, Bauman said he could see the man tying a loop in a thick paracord rope.
“When I tried calling to him from about 10 feet behind him, that was the first time he realized that somebody else was out there and he was startled,” Bauman said. “He ended up jumping down and taking off away from both of us, downriver.”
As Beedle tried to intercept the man by cutting out and around the stream, Bauman followed the man. But he lost sight of him in the thick underbrush.
“When I got around the corner, he was hanging from a thicker branch, almost partially seated, but off the ground a little bit,” Bauman said. “His face was bright red. We go to a lot of unfortunate calls, and he looked like he was unconscious to me.”
Bauman said he acted quickly, cutting the man down and removing the rope from around his neck. By that point, Beedle had rejoined Bauman.
“He wasn’t super responsive,” Beedle said. “He was lethargic, lying there in the creek.”
Bauman said it took the man almost 25 seconds to come “truly back.” By then he was cooperative and spoke with the deputies as they walked him out of the woods.
The man was first checked for neck trauma by an aid team, then Bauman drove him to St. John Medical Center.
“I try to spend the time, when people are in the back of my car, to try to say something that will get through to them,” Bauman said. “... I hope he doesn’t choose to do it in the future, but there’s no guarantees. Probably the worst thing will be, if he does, was there something else I could have said?”
The two deputies said they respond to suicide calls or welfare checks nearly every shift, and they’re glad they had the chance to help that Friday.
“There’s a lot of unfortunate times where things were already done by the time we get called and there’s nothing we can do that changes the outcome,” Bauman said.