Fifth jumping death off ‘suicide bridge’

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A man jumped off Southwest Portland’s Vista Bridge early Monday morning, marking the fifth such death this year.

Lt. Mike Marshman, a Portland Fire & Rescue spokesperson, confirmed the incident. Traffic in the area was not disrupted.

A group of trained suicide patrol volunteers have been monitoring the bridge since last month. Attorney Kenneth Kahn, co-founder of Friends of the Vista Bridge, stated that a volunteer was on the bridge at the time and attempted to talk the man down.

“We did have a volunteer up on the bridge,” Kahn said. “She acted according to her training.”

The man parked his SUV and then headed towards the middle of the bridge, Kahn said. The victim appeared agitated and was pacing back and forth.

“These are classic signs that our volunteer recognized and made an effort to make contact with him,” Kahn said. “He yelled to her to stay away. She said that she wanted to talk. She tried to get closer. He then threw a leg over the bridge. She said, ‘please don’t do this.’ And then he dropped.”

This comes while construction is underway on a 9-foot tall mesh screen along what has informally become known as “suicide bridge.” Construction, which began last month, is not complete. The screen is designed to offer a temporary solution while the city works with the State Historic Preservation Office to examine possible long-term resolutions, which could take over two years. A more durable bridge addition is expected to cost $2.5 to $3 million. Such renovation would have to be consistent with the bridge’s designation as a National Historic Landmark.

On June 5, a 15-year-old jumped off and landed on the MAX tracks below, shutting down service in both direction for several hours. A male victim jumped off the bridge July 16.

“When a suicide happens, there’s emotional wreckage that’s left adrift for everyone to deal with,” Kahn said.

The patrol will continue, according to Kahn, with more volunteers who have come forward to undergo training with the nonprofit group Lines for Life.

“We know that the volunteers are having an effect,” Kahn explained. “We did come across a note from a person who said… ‘I don’t know if anybody is going to read this… But I want you to know that you saved my life.’”

The five deaths so far in 2013 make for the highest total in any recent year. More than 175 people are estimated to have jumped off the bridge since it opened in 1926.

Faris Tanyos

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