As Vista Bridge screen construction continues, another suicide

As Vista Bridge screen construction continues, another suicide »Play Video
In this Tuesday, June 4, 2013, photo, light rail and traffic pass under the Vista Bridge, historically known as "The Suicide Bridge", in the Goose Hollow neighborhood west of downtown Portland, Ore. The numbers vary annually, but a suicide or two occurs each year at the arch bridge from which there is a majestic vista of the city skyline. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

PORTLAND, Ore. – A man jumped to his death from the Vista Bridge early Tuesday morning.

The suicide was the fourth this year at the bridge known for its view of the city and its long history of suicides. The city just last week announced plans to build a screen along the bridge’s span to curb the growing number of suicides there.

Portland police said the man was found dead on SW Jefferson Street below the bridge just before 5 a.m. Tuesday. The body was turned over to the state medical examiner and the man’s name has not been released.

Three other people, including a 15-year-old girl, have jumped to their deaths from the Vista Bridge this year. Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick declared an emergency and ordered for the immediate construction of a screen. He said it will be in place by the middle of August, if not sooner.

Novick’s spokesman Chris Warner said Tuesday’s suicide underscores the need for the screen.

“It just reinforces why we’re doing what we’re doing,” said Warner. “We’re trying to do it as quickly as possible.”

The 9-foot-tall screen will be attached to the inside the bridge’s railing and have an overhang. It will run along the entire span of the Southwest Portland bridge, according to Diane Dulken, spokeswoman for the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

A mock-up of what the temporary screen on the Vista Bridge would look like. (Courtesy: Portland Bureau of Transportation)

Ken Kahn is a defense attorney whose office is near the base of the bridge. He said he's been so overwhelmed by the eight suicides he's seen over the years that he formed the group Friends of the Vista Bridge.

"We believe we can raise sufficient volunteers to keep the bridge manned 24/7 until the temporary barrier is in place," Kahn said.

City officials last week said that the screen is “an interim remedy that can be in place until a longer-term solution and funding can be found.”

The city is seeking federal or other funding for a permanent barrier that’s expected to cost between $2.5 million and $3 million. The temporary net costs $236,000.

The bridge, erected in the 1920s, has a long history of suicides. Last year, the city posted signs near Portland bridges that have the number for Lines for Life. The Vista Bridge was one of the first locations to get the suicide prevention signs.

Available resources

If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts or needs help, police say the following options are available:

  • The Multnomah County Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at (503) 988-4888.
  • Lines for Life is available 24 hours a day at (503) 972-3456.
  • Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare has an urgent walk-in clinic open from 7:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., 7 days a week. Payment is not necessary. Call (503) 963-2575.

KATU's Mary Loos contributed to this story.