The directors of the Golden Gate bridge are currently looking to decrease the rising numbers of suicides. Since it was built in 1937, as many as 1,600 people have leaped to their deaths off of the famous San Francisco bridge. Last year, that number was pegged at 46, a record amount of annual suicides. 118 people had also been stopped before they could jump. Bridge district officials train patrol officers, iron-workers and painters on how to deter any body from climbing over the four-foot high railing and tossing themselves into the bay. The funding for a steel and mesh net 20 feet under the bridge is now in the offing.
Not all bridge suicides have been successful, and officials and doctors claim that broken ribs and internal bleeding are usually the results upon landing. Some people eventually drown, about five percent, and those that survive the jumping off the deep-end usually self-inflict permanent physical damage. With the Golden Gate Bridge becoming an apparent magnet for suicides — a suicide or an attempt nearly every other day — the public outcry is beckoning a financial decision from the directors who oversee and maintain the easily accessible bridge.
For the last 60 years, it is reported that bridge officials have kept a suicide net from being built in order to keep the bridge aesthetically pleasing and to avoid the cost of construction. In May, that ethos comes to an end as the district looks to approve funding for the suicide nets. The cost for those nets to be built is estimated at $66 million. Some of that money is expected to come from bridge tolls, in addition to state and federal funds. Golden Gate Bridge suicides have already surpassed motor vehicle fatalities, and the citizens in and around San Francisco have been increasingly demanding that something be done to stop these deaths from happening. The Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower both have nets to prevent suicides. Critics believe the nets are imperative at removing from their landscapes these terrible and horrific tragedies.
Perhaps what has been most disturbing in the recent rise of suicidal deaths relating to the bridge is the age of those who have died. Local police have told newspapers that what used to be in the range of 35-to-45 year old people who were committing suicide has changed. They have witnessed an increase in deaths among the younger population, of those in their twenties and thirties. A harrowing account of Kyle Gamboa, an 18 year old who jumped to his death from the bridge last Sept. after driving nearly 110 miles in his car from Fair Oaks, Calif., has been repeatedly addressed during public meetings discussing the Golden Gate Bridge and how to stop the growing number of suicides. Manuel Gamboa Jr., Kyle’s father, reportedly drives to each meeting at the district building for the bridge. He holds up his son’s school pictures to the board, saying that if something had already been done his son might still be alive. Mr. Gamboa pleads with bridge officials to acquire the necessary funding for suicide nets to be put into use.
The 19-member board is set to vote in May on the issue of funding for the construction of suicide nets under the monumental bridge.
By Bryan William Myers