Families of suicide victims call for barriers along Sierra bridge
AUBURN, Calif. (AP) ” At least 45 people have jumped to their deaths from a 730-foot-high bridge in the Sierra foothills since it opened in 1973, according to the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Victims’ family members are now pressuring Placer County officials to do more to prevent suicides from the span over the American River near Auburn. The state’s tallest bridge is under the jurisdiction of the parks department, which administers the surrounding recreation area about 35 miles east of Sacramento.
Two years ago, the county installed six telephone hot lines on the bridge so despondent people will have someone to talk to day or night, but it hasn’t stopped the deaths.
The most recent apparent suicide was that of Thomas Barry Moore, 53, of Grass Valley. His body was found hanging from the bridge two weeks ago.
County supervisors considered installing a mesh fence in the mid-1990s but decided the $700,000 cost was too great. They also have rejected putting up a net, fence or raising the nearly five-foot railing, in part because a barrier would interfere with the views of the American River Canyon and surrounding foothills.
“There’s no reason for this to happen to anyone else,” said Susan Viley of Roseville, whose 20-year-old son Michael jumped to his death from the bridge in 1997. “They say they can’t afford this, they can’t afford that. Well, what’s the price of a life?”
County officials wonder whether a barrier would help.
“If someone is really determined, it’s difficult to stop them in the process,” said Maureen Bauman, Placer County’s mental health director.
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco sees about 20 suicide attempts per year, according to the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, which operates and maintains the bridge.