Following four suicides from Midgley Bridge in 13 weeks, county and state officials are now discussing ways to prevent it. But it may not be as easy as it sounds.
Recently, Chief Deputy Jim Driscoll, of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, joined representatives from the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Arizona Department of Public Safety to discuss what may be done to help reduce the number of suicides off Midgley.
Even though ADOT owns the bridge, the parking lot next to the bridge belongs to the U.S. Forest Service. While the city of Sedona has no jurisdiction over the bridge, its police officers are usually the first to respond during suicide calls because of its proximity. In addition, CCSO Search & Rescue personnel are the ones who retrieve the bodies, often with the assistance of the Sedona Fire District.
“In this case, you’re dealing with so many different agencies that even erecting signs has to run the gamut of the approval process,” Driscoll said, adding that additional suicide hotline signs have been proposed.
Driscoll said he didn’t want to speak for ADOT but did say that for now, putting up fencing on the bridge — similar to that on overpasses in large cities — may not be realistic. Even though it’s his understanding that there are no concrete plans in the works, he feels it’s a good sign that the agencies are at least discussing it.
“Fencing may make it a little more difficult for them but it may not prevent them from still going through with it,” he said, noting that they may jump elsewhere or try another form of suicide. “It’s definitely an unfortunate thing. We, in law enforcement, are seeing more suicide attempts as well as completed suicides than in other years.”
According to statistics from CCSO, in 2013 there were 11 suicides in the county and 13 last year. So far this year there have been 26.
So why Midgley Bridge? The bridge itself has been around for 77 years so it’s not a new location for suicides. Along with other first responders, Driscoll said he can only guess.
“Like the Grand Canyon, it’s very scenic and beautiful,” he said. “Scenic areas seem to attract this type of activity.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Grand Canyon counted 11 suicides from 2003 to 2009. Those numbers pale in comparison to the Golden Gate Bridge, which has seen more than 1,500 suicides in the last 76 years, or about 20 a year.
“When someone attempts suicide via pills, firearms or hanging, there’s not always a guarantee they’ll be successful in their endeavor,” Driscoll said. “It’s often a cry for help. But if you jump from a location like Midgley Bridge, that’s a sure thing — there’s no possibility of survival.”
Results from a nonscientific Sedona Red Rocks News online poll asking if fencing should be installed on Midgley Bridge to prevent suicides resulted in 42 percent saying no because it wouldn’t do any good. Another 33.5 percent said yes while 19 percent said yes, along with other measures.
Being that CCSO’s search and rescue team is in charge of recovering bodies below the bridge, Driscoll said their well-being is always a concern. For example, during a body recovery in October, crew members became stranded for a couple hours because the creek overflowed during a heavy rainstorm.
“Safety is the biggest issue we have not only for our crews but those from other agencies as well,” he said. BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS