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Bus driver saves life of man who was jumping off of bridge

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Photo courtesy of RIPTA

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority Board of Directors issued a commendation Wednesday to Operator Eldora “Ellie” Giblin for stopping her bus and coming to the aid of man who seemed ready to jump off the Henderson Bridge on the Providence-East Providence line. She also received citations from K. Joseph Shekarchi, Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, and State Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio.

According to a release, the commendation from the RIPTA Board praises Giblin for her “exemplary compassion and selflessness” on April 3, 2021, when she stopped en route to talk to a man who had one leg over the railing of the bridge. Giblin said she was nervous but knew she had to take action because even though other cars had pulled over, no one was talking to the man. “People just had their phones out and were taking pictures or video — It broke my heart,” she said. “I told my passengers not to worry and that I would be right back.”

A RIPTA Operator for nine years, Giblin said she was driving the Route 33 bus towards East Providence shortly after 11am that Saturday when she saw the man at the railing. First, she called to the man and asked him to come on the bus. When he didn’t respond she got out, took a couple of steps and said, “Please come to me.” The man, whose identity she never did learn, did not move, but told her that “no one cares,” Giblin recalled.

She assured him that she cared and invited him to join her during her upcoming break at a nearby Shaw’s supermarket in East Providence. After a few minutes, the man pulled his leg back over the railing and reached out to give her a hug. Giblin said he then told her that he wanted to go home and began walking to his car, which was parked nearby. She stayed with him, hoping that emergency personnel would arrive before he could leave.

When it became apparent that he was going to drive away, Giblin said she asked him to assure her that he would not harm himself, and she reached out to link fingers with him, the same way she always sealed promises with her children. “I made him pinky swear,” she said. As he pulled away, she made note of his license plate and radioed RIPTA Dispatch as soon as she got back on the bus so authorities could be notified.

Giblin said she had no idea what the response of her passengers would be. To her surprise, they burst into applause as she returned to the driver’s seat to resume the route. She said doesn’t think she did anything special and that she had just tried to do the right thing.

RIPTA officials do not agree. “To say that she went above and beyond is an understatement,” said Scott Avedisian, RIPTA’s Chief Executive Officer. “Ellie is a reminder that there are many good people in the world and that acts of kindness can make a huge difference. We are so proud that she is a RIPTA employee.”

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