(Corrects reference to California Highway Patrol spokesman in
the 9th paragraph)
By Alex Dobuzinskis
Feb 25 San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge marked
a milestone in 2013 as 46 people leaped to their deaths in what
appears to be the deadliest year for suicides at the California
landmark, a watchdog group said on Tuesday.
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
"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 (67 metres) 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
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
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.
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 said.
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.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Steve Gorman and Ken