After Yet Another Chappaqua Resident Jumps Off The Bear Mountain Bridge, Barriers Must Be Built

25 Apr

On Wednesday morning, according to press reports, a 52 year old resident of Chappaqua, jumped to his death off the Bear Mountain Bridge, the very same launching pad that Jeff utilized nearly two and a half years ago.  This is the fourth suicide victim, including Jeff, from our town that I’m aware of in the last three years

According to a Chappaqua Patch article on the suicide, John Belluci, a spokesman for the New York State Bridge Authority, said the bridge  contains four Lifeline phones for people contemplating suicide.  Really, John?  And those phones have really done the trick so far, haven’t they?  Is this a joke?  I spent every waking moment during Jeff’s last two months talking to him and trying to make him understand why he had everything to  live for.  But when something snapped on November 9th and he arrived at the bridge, do you think Jeff thought for a split second about picking up a Lifeline phone?  His loving family couldn’t convince him how precious his life was.  I don’t think Jeff would have sought solace from a stranger on the other end of a bridge phone during his last moments.

It’s time to stop the nonsense.  The only way to cut down or possibly eliminate the number of suicides resulting from bridge jumping is to erect barriers–I suggest wire mesh barriers that I have seen on bridges in other states.   We’ve got to make it difficult for those going through temporary bouts of despair to execute on these misguided plans.  If Jeff had driven to the bridge on November 9th, 2010, only to find that he couldn’t jump because there were barriers preventing him from doing so, what do you think he would have done?  I guarantee you he wouldn’t have tried to scale the barrier.  He would have realized his plan was foiled, and I’d like to think he’d have been forced to calm down and regroup.  Research shows that if those with suicidal thoughts can get through these temporary moments, there is real hope that they can be saved.

Despite two people jumping to their deaths from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island over a recent two week period, the MTA says it has no plans to review its suicide deterrants.  This is so even though since December 2011, at least six suicide deaths have occurred at the Verrazano, and five additional attempts have been made.  But in 2008, the good old MTA installed a half-dozen phones on the bridge to connect to a suicide prevention hotline called LifeNet.  Isn’t that great?  Seems to have been real effective so far, right?  Check out these signs that they’ve added there which read “Live is worth living.”

p1 jumper18  jumper suicide-prevention phones

Now, if you’re standing at the Verrazano planning to jump and you see that sign, is that going to stop you?  Give me a break.  Judie Glave, a spokeswoman for the MTA, says there no plans to install fencing.  She is effectively saying they will let the suicides continue and that those lives are meaningless.

Jessica Suero, 25, started an online petition after her uncle jumped off the Verrazano on January 25, 2012.  Ms. Suero believes, and I couldn’t agree more, that if a physical barrier existed–even if it wasn’t the most state-of-the-art, it would take so much time for a determined jumper to scale it that police and bridge staff would have time to reach the person.

The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study looking at suicides at the Duke Ellington Bridge in Wahsington, D.C. before and after a fence was installed in 1986.  It found that from 1979 to 1986, the bridge averaged 3.67 suicides per year.  How many do you think occurred from 1987-1990 after the fence was installed?  ZERO.  What a shock.

Thankfully, officials have said that the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge will include an anti-climbing fence along with more suicide prevention phones, cameras and staff training for dealing with potential jumpers.  Finally, some common sense is being introduced to this issue.

However, if these types of preventive measures are not rolled out on a widespread basis, suicides from jumping will continue at their current horrific rate.  I know in my heart that if the Bear Mountain Bridge had had a barrier to jumping on the day Jeff arrived there, he would have used that dollar bill he brought with him to pay the toll to return home, and we would have had more chances to turn him around.  But it didn’t and still doesn’t, and that is why yet another neighbor of mine in Chappaqua, this time a guy my age, is no longer here either.

– Rich Klein

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One Response to “After Yet Another Chappaqua Resident Jumps Off The Bear Mountain Bridge, Barriers Must Be Built”

  1. CarlLa Horton April 26, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    Richard, Thank you and keep talking until they listen. CARLLA

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