The RailStaff Awards 2024

Nominations for Samaritans Lifesaver Award

Lyndsay McCartney

Said the following about Lee Walker:

“We are nominating Lee Walker for his quick thinking and intervention which saved a person’s life in May 2022.

Lee, a Conductor based at our Newcastle depot, was cycling to work for his early shift. Shortly before 5am, he reached Jesmond Dene and started to cycle across the Armstrong Bridge, when he noticed a large coil of rope on the footbath adjacent to the bridge. Lee thought this was unusual, but presumed it was left there by kids making a rope swing, but then something else caught his eye – a man was stood on the bridge with the rope tied around his neck, preparing to jump off and take his own life. Lee immediately spun his bike round, raced to the man and shouted “what are you doing up there? You don’t want to be jumping off there!” The man replied, “just leave me alone”.

Lee said he couldn’t leave him alone and attempted to engage him in conversation, telling him his name, about his family, and asking him about his own family – he did this in the hope of distracting him from jumping. Lee told him he could help and opened up to him about his own feelings of depression in the past. He shared how his family, friends, GP and medication had all helped him to manage this battle and help was out there for him too.

The man continued to insist that Lee should leave him alone and cycle away, but Lee was thinking of ways to help him further – could he grab the rope? Should he keep him talking? At that point he spotted a member of the public at the bottom of the Dene watching what was happening. Lee signalled to this man by making a ‘telephone’ hand gesture to him, imploring him to phone the police for help. The man below did not seem to see this gesture, instead fixated on the man attempting to jump. Lee did not want to reach for his own phone incase this escalated the situation.

The man was inching his feet closer to the edge of the bridge and Lee was becoming increasingly concerned. He kept talking to him in a reassuring tone and encouraging him to move away from the edge, but he was lost in his own thoughts and only spoke a few words back to Lee.

After approximately 20 minutes, Lee knew he wasn’t making progress and decided to retrieve his phone from his bag and call the police. Within five minutes of the call the police arrived and Lee briefed them on the situation. The six officers on site took charge, with the lead officer taking over Lee’s role of engaging the man in conversation. They took Lee’s details and advised him he could leave the scene and continue on to work. On his way, he heard an ambulance racing to the bridge, but at this point Lee was not aware of the outcome.

Lee was honest with the team at Newcastle and said he was not in the right frame of mind to safely work a train. The team were supportive and in awe of his heroism that morning. As he headed home that day, mentally exhausted, he wondered what happened to the man on the bridge.

The outcome of that morning would not be revealed to Lee until a few days later, after a chance encounter on his lunch break. As he waited for his order in McDonalds, he spotted two police officers and recognised one as the officer who had took charge of the situation on the bridge. Lee approached him and asked for an update. The officer told him it had taken a while to talk the man down from the bridge, but they had managed it. He had been planning suicide for some time, and if Lee had not cycled across the bridge that morning, the outcome may have been very different.

Lee says “I was in the right place right time that sunny morning that’s for sure. Some closure for me at last.”

Lee is being very humble, but we think he is a hero!“