Tom Freitas, left, and Ryan O’Sullivan inside the Water & Sewer Division garage on Adams Avenue in Lewiston. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

LEWISTON — It’s a story that sounds a lot like fate intervening.

A depressed man walking into the woods with a length of rope, determined to end his life.

That man didn’t end his life, it turns out, because two city workers were there to talk him out of it.

It happened in November, as Public Works crews were out checking fire hydrants in preparation for the coming winter. It was just another day on the job as workers Tom Friestas and Ryan O’Sullivan checked on a hydrant on the dead end of Gendron Drive.

While they were at it, they spotted a man walking into the woods with a length of rope. It was nothing too out of the ordinary, but there was something about the sight of it that stuck with Friestas and O’Sullivan, even after they had completed their work and driven away.

“After getting down the road, they both had nagging feelings that something wasn’t right,” said Public Works Director Dave Jones, “so they went back to where they saw the man enter the woods. Both Tom and Ryan entered the woods and saw the man up in a tree and with rope tied off and with a noose around his neck.”


It was a suicide in progress and, had the men arrived even a few seconds later, it might have been all over. They got there just in time — but there was still the matter of convincing the man to come down from the tree.

“Tom asked Ryan to call 911 and Tom immediately spoke to the man and asked him to stop, not jump, and please just come down and talk,” Jones wrote in an account of the event. “Tom was insistent, and showed compassion, and was able to get the man to come down. Tom talked with the man until emergency personnel arrived to help.

“Tom and Ryan saved that man,” Jones said, “by being aware of their surroundings, caring for the individual, acting on their instincts and not being afraid to act. Tom and Ryan’s actions saved one man’s life and impacted a family and the community.”

Both men were described as “humble” by co-workers. They could not be reached for comment about their heroics. The men have since been honored with the Lewiston Police Citizen Achievement Award.


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