Fact Check

Does a Video Show Firefighters Catching a Suicidal Woman in Mid-Air?

The heroic exploits of two Latvian firefighters gained prominence online in August 2021.

Published Aug 17, 2021

 (Valsts ugunsdzēsības un glābšanas dienests/Facebook)
Image Via Valsts ugunsdzēsības un glābšanas dienests/Facebook
A video, shared widely in August 2021, shows a firefighter leaning out an apartment window and catching a suicidal woman in mid-air.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health, suicide or substance use crisis or emotional distress, reach out 24/7 to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) by dialing or texting 988 or using chat services at suicidepreventionlifeline.org to connect to a trained crisis counselor.

In August 2021, remarkable footage of a daring rescue re-emerged online, prompting interest from readers about its authenticity and origins.

On Aug. 12, a post on the popular forum Reddit carried the title "Firefighter snatches suicide jumper out of mid air" and included the 20-second video, which although not graphic, shows an interrupted suicide attempt and thus might be upsetting to some readers:

The footage was entirely authentic and really did show a firefighter, leaning out of a window while being supported by his colleague, catch a suicidal woman who had fallen or jumped from the floor above. As a result, we are issuing a rating of "True."

The incident took place in May 2018 in Riga, the capital city of the Baltic nation of Latvia. According to an official account posted by Valsts ugunsdzēsības un glābšanas dienests (the national Latvian State Fire and Rescue Service or SFRS), the firefighters responded to an emergency call from the apartment building in question, about a woman on the fourth floor who appeared to be contemplating suicide.

Fearing that she might jump out of the window if they attempted to rescue her from inside her apartment, some of the firefighters set up on the floor below, while others went on the roof and attempted to lower mountaineering equipment in order to secure the woman. It's not entirely clear whether the woman ultimately jumped or fell from the fourth-floor window sill, and the SFRS statement noted that her fingers were observed to be "slipping."

On the third floor, Tomas Jaunzems leaned out of the window while his colleague, Boriss Rutkovskis, braced Jaunzems' legs and helped stabilize him against the window ledge. As the video shows, Jaunzems ultimately caught the falling woman and, with the help of Rutkovskis, carried her inside to safety.

The Latvian Interior Ministry later awarded the two men medals for "selflessness" and "heroic actions," as shown below:

From left to right: Head of the SFRS Oskars Āboliņš; SFRS firefighter Tomas Jaunzems; SFRS firefighter Boriss Rutkovskis; Latvian Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis. Photo: SFRS

The authenticity of the video footage is further confirmed by the fact that the SFRS itself posted the clip to Facebook on May 31, 2018.

Dan Mac Guill is a former writer for Snopes.