Ivy Leaf - Winter 2008

A Real Life Saver

By Marissa Carney


As a corrections officer for State Corrections Institute Fayette, 22-year-old Mike Lubinsky is trained to handle dozens of different situations and emergencies. But the Penn State Altoona alumnus had to rely on his intuition and reflexes one sunny day in August 2007. His actions saved the life of a 15-year-old boy.

Lubinsky, a 2006 Penn State Altoona graduate with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, has been employed at SCI Fayette for about a year. During that time, he’s broken up fights between inmates, fights between inmates and other officers, and been faced with medical emergencies. But in the mid-August heat, as he headed into work with another officer, Lubinsky found himself in a situation he never expected to encounter.

“I was a boy scout and an eagle scout, so that prepared me for unusual events in first aid or CPR, and the training academy prepared me for things you’d expect at a prison. Even though that training helped me in this situation, it was something totally different than I ever thought I’d be involved in.”

“I never thought about something like this happening, but we did what we did. You’d like to think that any other person would do the same thing.”
~Mike Lubinsky

Crossing the West Brownsville Bridge in Fayette County that afternoon, the car in front of Lubinsky and his passenger began slowing down and then stopped completely. Thinking the car had engine trouble, the two were stunned when the driver got out and started screaming for someone to help her son. It was then that Lubinsky noticed the skinny, dark-haired boy standing on the edge of the bridge, threatening to commit suicide.

“My approach was just pure reaction, I didn’t even think about it. My adrenaline was pumping. The first thing I did was run over to him and grab his arms,” Lubinsky says. “He was barely hanging on; a stiff wind could have blown him over.” Lubinsky and his co-worker hauled the boy back to safety where he collapsed into his mother’s arms, both of them crying and nearly hysterical. Lubinsky waited for police and medical professionals to arrive and take over, making sure the mother and son remained safe. He was able to gather bits of the whole story.

The boy was suffering from depression and was on new medication, which didn’t seem to be working. He had been talking about committing suicide and that day left his house without telling his parents where he was going. His mother was driving around looking for him when she spotted him standing at the edge of the bridge that crosses the Monongahela River. Lubinsky says the drop was easily one hundred feet.

Both Lubinsky and his co-worker were nominated for several awards for their actions including the Department of Corrections Medal of Valor award, the Department’s highest honor, earned by those who demonstrate heroism and outstanding service while on duty and in the community.

States a humble Lubinsky, “We hear a lot of jokes about us being heroes or the dream team, but we were just in the right place at the right time.”