The Bridge Rail Foundation, which tracks fatalities at the
4,200-foot-long (1,280-meter) span, said the high number of suicides
demonstrates the need for a safety net to be installed to make it
more difficult for would-be jumpers to take their own lives there.
"I know it won't be built soon, and that's the most frustrating
thing about this," said Dayna Whitmer, board member with the
organization. "We hate to see any more 17-year-olds jump or
86-year-olds jump, it's just not right."
The road surface of the suspension bridge towers more than 220 feet
above the entrance to the San Francisco Bay, and the span ranks as
one of the world's most frequently chosen sites for public suicides.
It is also one of the most lethal, with jumps from the bridge nearly
always proving fatal.
A spokeswoman for the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation
District, Mary Currie, confirmed that 46 people had committed
suicide at the bridge last year, the highest annual total since at
least 2000, when she began keeping an unofficial count.
Currie said police officers or others had intervened to stop another
118 people from leaping off the span in 2013.
Whitmer said last year's suicide tally, up from 33 in 2012, was the
"highest we can confirm" since the bridge was built in 1937, adding
that the previous record was believed to be 40 or 41 in a single
year. An analysis published by the San Francisco Chronicle found 40
suicides occurred at the Golden Gate in 1977.
Officials have drawn up plans to install a safety net beneath the
span's sidewalks to catch people who jump but are still seeking the
estimated $66 million needed to construct it. In 2011, a firm was
given $5 million to design the net, Currie said.
For now, officials work to prevent suicides with law enforcement
officers on bicycle patrols. At any given time, two to four officers
are on the bridge's sidewalks, said California Highway Patrol
spokesman Andrew Barclay.
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Authorities have offered no explanation for the high number of
suicide jumpers last year.
"Suicides really come in waves, it seems like some years are high,
some years are low," Barclay said, adding that during the economic
downturn officers frequently encountered suicidal business owners or
people losing their homes.
The total number of people who have jumped to their death from the
bridge over the years is unknown, largely because of spotty
recordkeeping and because the bodies of some who jump are never
recovered, Whitmer said.
Whitmer's own 20-year-old son, Matthew, is believed to have
committed suicide at the Golden Gate in 2007 after he was reported
missing and the car he drove was discovered near the bridge, she
She said a safety net would cut down on future fatalities by saving
individuals from what is often an impulsive decision.
"If we can give them the time to get through that crisis, then they
can go back and get help or call someone," she said.
(This version of the story corrects reference to California Highway
Patrol spokesman in the 9th paragraph)
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Steve Gorman and Ken
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