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Monday, July 26, 2010

Golden Gate Bridge Jumper Situation Saturday -- Underscores Need for Net

Posted By on Mon, Jul 26, 2010 at 3:30 PM

click to enlarge Chris McIntyre - CHRIS MCINTYRE
On Saturday around 4 p.m., a man with a dark ponytail hopped the rail of the Golden Gate Bridge and contemplated a jump that would almost certainly end his life. Meanwhile, traffic snarled, authorities tried to coax the man down, and pedestrians were blocked from crossing. Some took photographs.

Chris McIntyre, a web product manager from Nashville, Tennessee, snapped some pictures. He watched the suicidal man turn around to face the bridge, then release his hands. "It was really creepy watching the guy," McIntyre said. "He was tempting fate."

McIntyre also said he heard annoyed drivers shouting things like, "just do it."


Although the media often

leaves stories like this one alone out of fear of giving the despondent ideas, the Golden Gate Bridge has a

long history as a suicide destination (more than 1,300 people have

thrown themselves from it). Recently the decades-old debate about the

government's role in thwarting jumpers has resurfaced.

Out of

the $50

million the Golden Gate Bridge District needs to construct the net, $5

million has just been allocated.

Inevitably, there will be many people out there who get pissed off about this effort. They'll say things like, "somebody who wants to die

cannot be stopped," or,  "it's not the responsibility of San Francisco

or anybody else to find $50 million to protect a few sad people from

themselves."

click to enlarge bridge2.jpg
Those are easy things to say if you don't know anybody who has attempted

suicide, or if you haven't read the research about how

fleeting suicidal impulses often are. The Golden Gate Bridge rarely

gives second chances, and when it does, survivors

say they are pretty thrilled to be alive.

There's a lot of research out there, and nearly all of it suggests that a net would save lives. The design for the Golden Gate Bridge's net was borrowed from Europe, where several known suicide bridges were netted off and suicide rates dropped toward zero.

The man on Saturday was eventually talked back from the ledge. Every year, about two dozen people aren't.

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF

and @SFWeekly and @AshleyHarrell3

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Ashley Harrell

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