A QUICK-thinking policeman has been hailed a hero after he stopped a teenager jumping to his death from a motorway bridge.
Off-duty dog-handler Sergeant Neil Persechino, 38, had to lunge over the safety barrier of the Altham Lane bridge, on the border of Huncoat and Altham, to catch the suicidal 19-year-old as he dangled over the middle lane of the M65.
The daring rescue took place around 2pm on Sunday. Sgt Persechino was driving over the bridge in a car with his two young daughters, aged 10 and 13, when he saw the lad climb over the railings with a rope tied around his neck.
He parked his car away from the scene, so the girls could not watch, and called for back-up.
He then staged a courageous attempt to talk the teenager, who had a bottle of vodka in his hand, back to safety.
He told the Observer: "I just went into automatic pilot and I was very focused on saving him. I approached him slowly from about 30 feet. I was talking to him, trying to find out why he was there and to build a rapport.
"He was very upset about a failed relationship and I tried to make him see nothing was worth doing that for. He went from squatting over the edge to dangling by his finger-tips over the middle lane of the motorway.
"I eventually got close enough to grab him, and then I had help pulling him up from another officer."
Sgt Persechino, who is based in Accrington but lives in Langho, was joined at the scene by PC Neil Sutton and their joint efforts averted a tragedy.
During the rescue, a motorway roadblock was arranged and a professional negotiator called but neither was needed because of the officers' bravery.
Inspector Chris Hayhurst, head of operational support, said: "Both officers demonstrated extreme bravery, putting their lives at risk to save someone. We are very proud of their actions, a quick-thinking and cool response to a very difficult situation."
PC Sutton, who has been an officer for 24 years, said: "It was what I'm paid to do and it was essential to get the man back from the wrong side of the railings. We didn't really consider the danger, we just had to get on with it."
A police spokesman said the teenager was taken to Greenbank Police Station in Blackburn and detained under the Mental Health Act. He has since appeared in court, charged with a breach of the peace.