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Woman Dies in Fall From Mall Garage

Plunge: Unidentified victim apparently attempted suicide. Man who tried to catch her may be paralyzed.

November 16, 1998|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SHERMAN OAKS — A woman apparently intent on killing herself jumped Sunday afternoon from the top of a Sherman Oaks Galleria parking garage, falling six stories onto a 26-year-old security guard, breaking his neck and possibly leaving him paralyzed.

In what officials called an act of heroism, Conrad Buchanan tried to catch the woman as she fell.

"That's just the way he is," said his mother, Norma Buchanan. "He's always helping people. He assumed he could help her by catching her."

"I think his effort speaks for itself," Los Angeles Police Sgt. John Goode of the Van Nuys Division added of Buchanan's selfless act. "It's just a terrible tragedy."

A father of two, Buchanan was listed late Sunday in serious but stable condition at Northridge Hospital Medical Center. Relatives said he may be left paralyzed from the neck down.

The unidentified woman died later at the hospital.

The incident began about 3:15 p.m. when the woman made her way to the top of the mall parking garage six stories above-ground and announced her intention to jump to a group of pedestrians walking along Ventura Boulevard near Sepulveda Boulevard, police said.

"She advised them to move or she would fall on them," Goode said. "All the pedestrians moved with the exception of an on-duty uniformed security guard."

Witnesses told police that Buchanan shouted "Don't jump, don't jump!" several times. But as the crowd parted, the woman jumped off the parking structure and onto Buchanan, who attempted to catch her, police said.

The two were rushed to the Northridge hospital, where she died shortly before 7 p.m.

From a hospital waiting room, concerned relatives described Buchanan as conscious but unable to respond to them.

They also said his wife, LaTonya Buchanan, became worried when she came to the mall from their Los Angeles home to pick him up--but he wasn't at their usual spot and did not respond to the telephonic pages she then sent. Shortly afterward, while she was still at the mall, officials told her that he was en route to the hospital.

"She was right there, but she didn't know [what] happened," Norma Buchanan said of her daughter-in-law.

A mall security official denied reports of the suicide attempt, saying it was his understanding that the incident had taken place at a hotel down the street.

Although there was confusion about the incident, Goode reiterated Sunday evening that it had taken place at the Galleria parking garage.

*

Times staff writer Margaret Ramirez contributed to this story.

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