According to Hebrew scripture, whoever saves a single life is thought to have saved the world.
In a sense, that simple message crossed the mind of Chris Charlesworth at 6:52 a.m. on April 29, 2023.
Charlesworth was just starting his day as a TRAX supervisor assisting Green Line operator Ediri Oyake, who was driving Train 40 through the intersection at 400 West and North Temple in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah.
Though Oyake, who hails from Nigeria, had plenty of responsibilities occupying his attention while navigating this stretch of the route, somehow, through the corner of his eye, he happened to see a man atop a nearby parking structure, lying on the ledge with his feet dangling over the side. The man’s shoes had already fallen off his feet, several stories to the ground below. Oyake instinctively knew this was a situation fraught with danger.
Charlesworth overheard Oyake calling into UTA dispatch to report the perilous scene playing out at sunrise, a time of day when the Green Line TRAX train only passes that exact spot every thirty minutes. As fate would have it, Oyake and Charleworth happened to be in the right place at the right time to save a life.
UTA’s TRAX supervisor did not hesitate to heed the call. “Once I saw his shoes on the street when I got there and I saw him up there, you get a gut feeling…I went up the stairs and thought, I’ve got to get close to him…gotta talk to him, let him know I care for him and that’s he’s important.”
It was eerily quiet atop the parking garage. Charlesworth noticed that. He also noticed the man was smoking — with both hands. And he noticed a sense of sadness in a man he’d never seen before, a man who seemed serious about taking his own life.
“He said back up, just kept telling me to back up. He started to put his hands behind him and lean out over the edge. It was sort of crazy.”
Still, Charlesworth remained calm and relied on the training he has received at UTA, where he’s been taught to be alert and sensitive to his surroundings: “Being aware of what’s going on so you’re safe and other people are safe.”
And so a life-and-death conversation began as the sun was rising, Charlesworth gently trying to earn the trust of someone about to give up and end it all.
“I started asking him about his favorite music and food, what would he miss, what would he like to do today, what can I help you do, where can I take you? I asked those type of questions to build a relationship and let him know I see him and that he’s a human and he’s more valuable than what he’s thinking.”
Though Charlesworth was beginning to build rapport, that man on the edge was sending signals the situation could change drastically—at anytime.
“At one point he went out with the Spider-man move you see in the movie…he just lunged and looked back at me. He could have easily slipped off the wall and could have fallen very quickly.”
But that day, he didn’t slip. He would eventually come back down off the ledge and allow Salt Lake City Police Officers to take him to a place of safety. Those officers got that chance thanks to a pair of dedicated TRAX employees who went above and beyond for a fellow man.
“He’s human, I value him, I wanted to take care of him as a person, so I thought let’s get you to safety.”
Both Charleworth and Oyake were recognized for their heroics by the UTA Board of Trustees at the board’s meeting on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. Tony Berger, TRAX operation manager, spoke for the entire agency: “I think they did an amazing job and if it weren’t for both of their actions, I think this could have ended very badly.”
Chris Charlesworth wasn’t about to let that happen. Destiny led him to the top of that building, just as it guided him 25 years ago when he received a transplant that saved his life. That love and appreciation of life is what compelled Charlesworth to get involved to save one life…and save the world.
“Don’t be afraid to take that risk and talk to them because you don’t know what they need…they may just need you to say hello or to recognize they’re a person, a human, they need something…we sometimes don’t take action because we’re afraid to say the wrong thing or cross a line, but that may be the difference. If you don’t take action and just walk on by you may miss the chance to save or help somebody. Don’t be afraid.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given and for the support I have from UTA — the encouragement to do the right thing for UTA and our community. I appreciate that.”