‘Selfless and courageous’ police officers have been praised after describing how they struggled to save a man who died falling from a motorway bridge at Pease Pottage.
Louis Perrina, 46, of Hepplewhite Close, Crawley, smoked his ‘last cigarette’ on the narrow ledge over the M23, on November 13, 2014, before leaning backwards and letting go of the railings.
At a jury inquest into his death, held at County Hall North in Horsham on August 11, police officers explained how they held on to his arms and his clothes, pleading with Mr Perrina to climb back over.
PC Paul Bubb, who was called to the scene, said: “With the four of us attempting to pull him up his jumper slipped off and he fell down on to the carriageway.
“We were holding onto him for about 75 seconds.
“To me it was quite clear his intention was to at some point jump from the bridge. There was nothing else we could have done to stop him going over the edge.”
PC Bubb said he tried to persuade Mr Perrina to climb back over the railings before he fell, talking to him to try to gain his trust.
But Mr Perrina, who was believed to weigh about 17 stone, ‘pulled away’ from the struggling officers, pushing his legs against the bridge and shouting ‘let me go’.
Results from a post mortem confirmed Mr Perrina died of head injuries and a toxicology report said he was more than twice the drink drive limit.
A statement by Sergeant Iain MacNab, who also on the bridge, was read to the court by coroner’s officer Geoff Charnock.
It said: “He calmly said ‘I’m going to go now, I’m going to fall down’.
“It was difficult leaning over the barrier to keep hold of him. He was pushing himself backwards with extreme force.
“It was an extremely harrowing incident.”
The inquest heard Mr Perrina had called 999 from the bridge to alert officers to his intention to end his life and also spoke to his family on his mobile phone.
Former boxer Chris Eubank arrived at the scene while officers were trying to talk to Mr Perrina, but was escorted away because he said he did not know Mr Perrina.
Mireille Perrina, Louis’ wife, said: “He was always a hard working man. He was a family man who was always very caring.
“He became slightly depressed and drank alcohol quite often. He started getting into trouble with police.”
She said Mr Perrina’s death had left a ‘very large hole’ in her and her daughter’s lives.
Recording a conclusion of suicide, the jury said Mr Perrina ‘intentionally let go of the railings’ and ‘resisted all attempts to save his life’.
Penelope Schofield, coroner for West Sussex, said: “It is clear to me from the evidence I have heard that the police officers did everything they could to save Mr Perrina. I wish to commend them formally for their actions.”
Ms Schofield said the police had acted in a ‘selfless and courageous’ way, fulfilling their duty.
She added: “It is in my view that Sussex Police should be very proud of the way they acted that night.”
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