Mayor wonders if barriers could stop suicide leaps
by Associated Press Wire
June 14, 2013 08:15 AM | 737 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In this Tuesday, June 4, 2013, photo, downtown is visible under under the Vista Bridge, historically known as "The Suicide Bridge" , in the Goose Hollow neighborhood west of downtown Portland, Ore. The numbers vary annually, but a suicide or two occurs each year at the arch bridge from which there is a majestic vista of the city skyline. Now a group called Friends of the Vista Bridge is pressing the city to install suicide-prevention barriers, a step taken at bridges throughout the world where suicides have become prevalent. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
In this Tuesday, June 4, 2013, photo, downtown is visible under under the Vista Bridge, historically known as "The Suicide Bridge" , in the Goose Hollow neighborhood west of downtown Portland, Ore. The numbers vary annually, but a suicide or two occurs each year at the arch bridge from which there is a majestic vista of the city skyline. Now a group called Friends of the Vista Bridge is pressing the city to install suicide-prevention barriers, a step taken at bridges throughout the world where suicides have become prevalent. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
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In this Tuesday, June 4, 2013, photo, light rail and traffic pass under the Vista Bridge, historically known as "The Suicide Bridge" , in the Goose Hollow neighborhood west of downtown Portland, Ore. The numbers vary annually, but a suicide or two occurs each year at the arch bridge from which there is a majestic vista of the city skyline. Now a group called Friends of the Vista Bridge is pressing the city to install suicide-prevention barriers, a step taken at bridges throughout the world where suicides have become prevalent. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
In this Tuesday, June 4, 2013, photo, light rail and traffic pass under the Vista Bridge, historically known as "The Suicide Bridge" , in the Goose Hollow neighborhood west of downtown Portland, Ore. The numbers vary annually, but a suicide or two occurs each year at the arch bridge from which there is a majestic vista of the city skyline. Now a group called Friends of the Vista Bridge is pressing the city to install suicide-prevention barriers, a step taken at bridges throughout the world where suicides have become prevalent. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
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BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — As residents debate installing barriers on an Oregon bridge to prevent suicides, a Georgia mayor wonders whether similar barriers should be installed on the Sidney Lanier Bridge near the Georgia coast.

Seven people have plunged to their deaths from the Georgia bridge since it opened a decade ago, The Brunswick News reported.

Brunswick Mayor Bryan wonders how many lives might be saved if there was something the Georgia Department of Transportation could do to prevent or discourage suicides.

A high fence or other barrier might prevent some people from jumping, but Bryan isn't sure it would stop those intent on killing themselves.

In Portland, Ore., some residents are asking the state to install barriers on the Vista Bridge, known locally as "The Suicide Bridge" because of recent deaths.

Portland lawyer Kenneth Kahn shares an office with his wife, a life coach, that sits almost directly underneath the bridge. Over the years he has heard the horrible slam of bodies on pavement and discovered the remains of eight strangers.

Now the Kahns are leading a group, Friends of The Vista Bridge, that is pressing the city to install suicide-prevention barriers, a step taken at bridges throughout the world, from the Cold Spring Canyon Bridge in Santa Barbara, Calif., to the Bloor Street Viaduct in Toronto.

"Just imagine a human being detonating," he said.

Members of the Portland group contend that jumping from a bridge is an impulsive act, and that a barrier introduces a pause that may make someone think twice.

In Brunswick, the most recent fatal plunge occurred this past Mother's Day, May 12, when a 69-year-old woman left her car at the top of the bridge at about 8:30 a.m. and fell to her death, authorities said.

Police have responded to numerous calls to the bridge this year to deal with people threatening to jump. The bridge has no fence or barrier to prevent them from doing it, and no nets -- such as at San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge -- to catch them if they do.

Brunswick Police Officer Todd Rhodes is doubtful that such measures would work on the Georgia bridge.

"If somebody really wants to kill themselves, they can find another way to do it, other than at the Sidney Lanier Bridge," Rhodes said.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has no formal policy on fencing or barriers on bridges, agency spokeswoman Natalie Dale said.

"Our bridge office is charged with building bridges that are safe for cars to travel over," Dale said. "Fencing is a deterrent (to suicide), but it would not necessarily prevent it."

But if a community petitioned the department for a barrier to deter suicide, it would consider the request, Dale said.

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Associated Press writer Steven DuBois contributed to this report.

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Information from: The Brunswick News, http://www.thebrunswicknews.com



Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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