A Portland police officer has played a critical role in saving a young woman who was threatening to take her own life near Hassans Walls lookout on Wednesday afternoon, July 5.
Senior Constable Roger Taig held onto the woman for over an hour as she was positioned inches away from a 25 metre drop before she could be rescued.
“When you engage in something like that the potential of something going wrong is fairly high and I was very, very relieved that the situation worked out, nobody got injured and we were able to retrieve the patient out of danger,” he said.
“It's a situation where you've got to assess it at the time and make the best decision. Turned out we made the best decision, we didn't lose anybody and nobody got hurt.”
She was actually on the very edge of the rock, laying on a 45 degree slope.Senior Constable Roger Taig
Senior Constable Taig and partnering officer Senior Constable Lisa Anderson were the first responders to the urgent situation and they were joined a short time later by Senior Constable Matthew Phoo.
The officers met the 26-year-old woman’s boyfriend at the top of Hassans Walls lookout before Senior Constable Taig went to search for her.
After making his way down the side of the mountain he came across the woman’s belongings and he could see she was perched on a rock about 50 metres away.
Senior Constable Taig tried to call out to the woman for around 10 minutes but she did not respond.
A trained police negotiator was on the way however the woman moved out of sight and Senior Constable Taig needed to take further action.
“I thought ‘well geez, I've got to keep in contact with her’ and so I had to find a way down the side of the mountain through thick bush and make sure I didn't put myself in any danger by falling off any part of the cliff,” he said.
Senior Constable Taig made his way to the woman’s position and lay face down on top of the rock where he could see her just below within arm’s reach.
He grabbed hold of the woman by her collar and under her right arm to make sure she could not go any further.
"She was actually on the very edge of the rock, laying on a 45 degree slope off the rock," Senior Constable Taig said.
Despite his best efforts to communicate with the woman she remained silent and unresponsive.
The officer then tried to hold onto her right hand to establish a better grip and possibly a better rapport.
"I couldn't get her to release easily so I forced her hand open a bit and tried to slip my thumb into the palm of her hand to try and get a bit of a monkey grip... then I felt this sharp sensation and I looked in her hand there was a razor blade so I now had a cut on my thumb and I started to bleed profusely."
After that painful move, Senior Constable Taig resumed his original grip under the woman’s arm and held tight for another 20-30 minutes.
He called out to Senior Constable Matthew Phoo for help and together they pinned the woman against the rock for around 30-40 minutes until the arrival of the Lithgow Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA).
Members of the VRA and Police Rescue from Bathurst used ropes and harnesses to make their way to the woman’s position on the front of the rock face and lifted her onto the top of the rock.
She was then placed onto a rescue stretcher and brought to safety.
However Senior Constables Taig and Phoo needed to wait a bit longer to make their exit.
"Because myself and Matthew had been laying down on our fronts for so long, the sensation in our legs had gone, we had to spend a fair bit of time recovering so that we could climb up the side of the mountain again."
During the whole ordeal Senior Constable Lisa Anderson was instrumental in coordinating the additional resources needed to complete the rescue.
"It was quite a big job but we got the job done, couldn't have done it without the team effort," Senior Constable Taig said.
The woman was transported to Lithgow hospital where she received treatment.
Senior Constable Taig has been a police officer for nearly 15 years and has served with Portland police since December 2005.
For 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Other services include Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467, Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636, Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800, MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978