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Following the death of a person who jumped from the Alex Fraser Bridge Monday afternoon, calls are being raised again for a suicide barrier to be constructed.
“At about 10-to-2 (p.m.) or so, our officers responded to a call that someone was experiencing a crisis on the Alex Fraser Bridge,” Delta police chief Neil Dubord told Global News.
“So we got to the bridge, by the time we worked our way through the traffic about two that afternoon and began some conversation with a person who was obviously in mental distress. And while we were there, unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in being able to de-escalate the situation, and as a result, the person lost their life.”
However, while calls for suicide barriers are growing louder, the B.C. government continues to say it is not possible.
“We always review how we can save lives and prevent death by suicide on bridge infrastructure,” Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said Tuesday.
“A lot of old bridges, it’s difficult to install fencing, for example, secure high fencing. We have been able to do it on some — Ironworkers Bridge — but sometimes there’s an engineering challenge where wind loading or other considerations affect the performance of the bridge, and it’s simply not possible.”
Calls for a suicide barrier for the Alex Fraser Bridge have been made before.
Police and the head of one of B.C.’s key crisis centres said in late September that they want to see the province get creative and find a way to install the barriers.
Completed in 1986, the cable-stayed span connecting Delta with Richmond and New Westminster is nearly a kilometre long and 154 metres high.
It’s also all too often the scene of crisis interventions. Between 2020 and 2022, Delta police have responded to 48 crisis or suicide attempt calls, and say at least six people have taken their lives from the span.
Police condemn actions of some drivers, bystanders during mental health intervention on Alex Fraser Bridge
Dubord is one of the voices calling for barriers on the bridge.
“We strongly believe that there should be an option for the Alex Fraser Bridge,” he said. “It’s one of the only bridges within the Metro Vancouver area that unfortunately doesn’t have any kind of suicide barriers. And we do believe that suicide barriers are a way for us to help eliminate those kinds of crisis situations.
“And it just makes a person start to think a little bit more and hopefully, you know, we can have an intervention at that time and change someone’s mind around their suicidal thoughts.”
In January, a mental health crisis brought traffic on the Alex Fraser Bridge to a standstill for hours.
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Delta police said the situation was made even worse at the time by the behaviour of some commuters.
“Our officers made the decision to close the southbound lanes of the bridge to increase their effectiveness of what they were trying to achieve,” acting inspector James Sandberg of the Delta Police Department told Global News.
“Unfortunately, their attention was diverted many times through people approaching, people engaging the officers, people yelling at the subject that we’re there for. With cars going by, cars honk, drivers yell. We also see driver behaviour increase, like more risk-taking, more speed revving of engines. They’ll drive closer to the police cars and the police officers, and it’s just an unsafe situation. So they made the decision to close the bridge.”
For now, Fleming said it’s not possible for every bridge to have the barriers or prevention equipment some would like to see.
“A bridge like the Alex Fraser does have a 24/7 call box,” he said. “Somebody who is in distress can pick up that phone and speak to somebody who is trained to help people in a moment of crisis and try and persuade them to think about other things and get help on the way to prevent that situation.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 9-1-1 for immediate help.
For a directory of support services in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention at suicideprevention.ca.
Learn more about preventing suicide with these warning signs and tips on how to help.
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