GEORGE TOWN, April 18 ― Auxiliary policeman Zaidi Salleh was on duty on the Second Penang Bridge at about 11.15am today when he was alerted to a woman who had jumped off the structure.
The retired Air Force flight sergeant rushed to KM9.9 of the bridge where she had leapt from and spotted her clinging to a pillar underneath.
Noticing that the tide was low and the waters below looked calm, Zaidi thought he had a good chance of saving her and moved quickly into action.
“I used a car-towing cable from a maintenance vehicle and used it to slowly scale down the pillar to reach her,” he told MalayMail when contacted this evening.
And then the tide came in.
The 52-year-old said he grabbed her and held fast for about 20 minutes while waiting for rescue boats to reach them.
“The undercurrent was very strong and it swept us to the middle of the sea so I held on to her to keep her from being swept away,” he said.
The trained diver said he was reaching the point of exhaustion trying to keep them afloat due to strong currents. Luckily the currents also swept a plastic fish container into their path.
“I let her hold on to the container and I reminded her that this was a sign from Allah that she must hang on to it to save herself because if she was to let go, I was too exhausted to save her at that point,” Zaidi recounted.
The wait until a fishing boat from Pulau Aman rescued them took another 20 minutes, but felt like forever.
“I was getting weaker by the minute that I was on the verge of going under when they came,” he said.
Zaidi said there have been many other cases of people jumping off the bridge, but added that it was the first time he had jumped in to save a person.
A two minute and 30 second video clip showing fishermen rescuing Zaidi and the 28-year-old woman from the sea started circulating on social media channels earlier today.
The video is believed to have be taken by one of the fishermen on the boat and showed the fishermen heading toward Zaidi and the woman who were barely keep their heads above water while flotsam drifted around them.
The fishermen pulled first the woman up onto the boat and then pulled Zaidi up while he was still holding on to the plastic container.
It is learnt that the woman had parked her car on the island-bound lane of the bridge before jumping off the ledge this morning.
Police believed she had attempted suicide due to family problems.