Stefan, who does not wish to use his last name, is a driver with Belfast-based company fonaCAB and had a “gut feeling” when he saw a young man who was rocking back and forth on the edge of a bridge overlooking the road.
He had just picked up a number of customers from May Street in the city centre shortly after midday who were on their way to a wedding in Broughshane. Stefan told the Belfast Telegraph that as they were driving past Belfast Metropolitan College’s Millfield campus, he looked over towards a slip road off Divis Street that led to the Westlink.
He saw a young man in his 20s who looked distressed on top of the wall adjacent to the slip road.
Stefan said: “My first vision was just ‘this guy’s going to jump here’ so I immediately put the brakes on, pulled the car over, made sure the customers in the taxi were OK, and my gut instinct just made me run right over to him.
“I saw him rocking and he was about to go so I grabbed the back of his jacket and thought, well if he goes he’s taking me too. There was a lorry driver who had also stopped just beneath where he was.
“He obviously saw he was going to jump and thought he would stop underneath and maybe it would break his fall. He knew this could have been fatal.
“I kept asking the wee fella what happened, and kept talking to him when he was rocking. He said he’d lost his dad and I told him it’s OK and at about the fifth or sixth rock I just scooped my hands around his stomach and lifted him off in a big bear hug.
“It was a very brief two or three minutes but it felt like a lifetime.”
The driver, who is from Bangor, said that he was filled with so much adrenaline during the ordeal. “I am still full of adrenaline even hours later,” he said.
“In those situations it’s either fight or flight — I did both — my fight was to fight for his life and the flight was lifting him straight off. I didn’t think twice.”
Stefan said that the young man was still very distressed when he was lifted off and, by this stage, two mental health nurses who saw the situation unfold, had arrived on the scene.
“They were trying to talk to him and offered to take him to hospital, but he kept banging his head off the wall, so I put my hand behind his head. Yes, he was hurting my hand but at least he wasn’t hurting himself,” he said. “I said to him he got his nine lives back today and really I just hope he’s OK.
“I hope that what I did has stopped a mother from burying her son today. Maybe he had brothers and sisters too, you never know how many people this could have affected so I am just hoping that this moment has helped a little.”
An eyewitness who saw the incident unfold has said that the taxi driver should be praised for saving a life. “I just think that taxi drivers get a lot of criticism, but here is one who saved someone’s life,” they said. “He should be praised for what he did.”
A fonaCAB spokesman said: “We are very proud of Stefan’s actions today and we hope the young man who Stefan went to the aid of receives the help he needs to recover.
“We were delighted to hear from Stefan’s customers today as well, who were so impacted by what he did that they even sent in their compliments on his bravery before they even reached their destination.”
If you, or anyone close to you, have been affected by any issues in this article, please contact the Samaritans free on 116123 or Lifeline on 080 8808 8000.