Serving in the U.S. Army Infantry gave local Deputy Bryan Waxler the skills he needs to serve the Humboldt County community, including fast reflexes that saved a woman's life last week.
A lifelong Humboldt resident, Waxler, 29, has been recommended for a life-saving award by his supervising sergeant after he rescued a 19-year-old woman on July 23 before she tumbled off the Redway Bridge.
Waxler said he and his partner were dispatched around 10 p.m. that night to a report of a woman running naked through the woods near Briceland Road in Redway. When they arrived, they found the unidentified woman walking naked in the middle of the road with cuts on her arms and legs.
”When we showed up, there were two female friends talking to her,” Waxler said, adding that they were trying to help the woman.
He said the woman saw the deputies and started walking away from them. She then jumped over a three-foot high railing on the Redway Bridge and began walking along the outside of the ledge, as if she were walking on an eight-inch wide tightrope.
Waxler said he tried to talk to the woman, but she remained silent. As he tried to close the 10-foot gap between them, he saw her right foot slip off the ledge.
”I was able to grab her wrist and yank her back on the bridge,” Waxler said.
Once she was pulled to safety, Waxler said the woman started screaming, yelling her name and singing.
He said they were able to hold onto her until an ambulance arrived to transport her to Jerold Phelps Community Hospital in Garberville.
Waxler said he's glad the woman had fairly good balance and that when she did fall, he was able to get to her in time. He said the bridge is about 150-feet above a rocky river bar.
”There wouldn't have been anything left of her if she fell,” Waxler said.
Sheriff's Lt. Steve Knight said the sheriff's office is extremely proud of Waxler and his efforts.
”He did a great job. This was above and beyond the average call of duty,” Knight said.
Sheriff Mike Downey said he has personally thanked Waxler for his service. He said he's grateful for law enforcement officers like Waxler, and that the deputy's actions demonstrate the admirable character of the men and women working in the county.
”He was in what was a potentially a life-threatening situation and without regard for his own safety, took action. That's what we do, we're there to protect and serve,” Downey said.
Humbled by the attention, Waxler said he was just doing the job he's enjoyed since joining the sheriff's office in 2008.
”It was just another call for me,” Waxler said.
Before becoming a deputy, Waxler spent a year-and-a-half in Iraq, serving in the U.S. Army Infantry during 2004 and 2005. He said patrolling and doing convoy security taught him how to handle stressful situations.
”I saw some combat quite often. We were in a pretty bad area,” Waxler said. “I definitely had some close calls.”
He said the experience helped him prepare for the unknowns that accompany his current job.
”We just get dispatched,” Waxler said. “It can vary from helping someone that has fallen down, to a critical incident where shots were fired.”
Variation makes the job exciting, Waxler said.
While he sometimes misses the Army, he said he's content with his position at the sheriff's office. His military service is being carried on by his family - via a younger brother and an older brother - who were inspired to serve after Waxler did. He said both of his brothers are currently serving their country.
Megan Hansen can be reached at 441-0511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Humboldt County Sheriff's Deputy Bryan Waxler served in the U.S. Army in 2004-2005 and went overseas to Iraq before joining the sheriff's office in 2008.