After Nearly 2K Suicides, Golden Gate Adds Nets

San Francisco effort took nearly a decade
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 3, 2024 7:00 PM CST
Golden Gate Adds Nets After Nearly 2K Suicides
A suicide deterrent net is shown under construction beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco in December.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Kevin Hines regretted jumping off San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge the moment his hands released the rail and he plunged the equivalent of 25 stories into the Pacific Ocean, breaking his back. Hines survived his suicide attempt at age 19 in 2000 as he struggled with bipolar disorder, one of about 40 people to survive jumping off the bridge, the AP reports. Hines, his father, and a group of parents who lost their children to suicide at the bridge relentlessly advocated for a solution for two decades, meeting resistance from people who did not want to alter the iconic landmark with its sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.

On Wednesday, they finally got their wish when officials announced that crews have installed stainless-steel nets on both sides of the 1.7-mile bridge. Hines expressed gratitude. "Had the net been there, I would have been stopped by the police and gotten the help I needed immediately and never broken my back, never shattered three vertebrae, and never been on this path I was on," said Hines, now a suicide prevention advocate. Nearly 2,000 people have plunged to their deaths since the bridge opened in 1937. The city approved the project more than a decade ago, and in 2018 work began on the 20-foot-wide stainless steel mesh nets. But efforts to complete them were repeatedly delayed.

The nets—placed 20 feet down from the bridge's deck—are not visible from cars crossing the bridge. But pedestrians standing by the rails can see them. They were built with marine-grade stainless steel that can withstand saltwater, fog, and strong winds that often envelop the striking orange structure at the mouth of San Francisco Bay. "We have a continuous physical suicide barrier installed the full length of the 1.7-mile bridge on the east and the west side. The bridge is sealed up," said Denis Mulligan, general manager of the Golden Gate Bridge's Highway and Transportation District, per the AP. The barriers are already working as intended, he added. As the project neared completion last year, the number of people who jumped dropped from an annual average of 30 to 14, with the deaths occurring in the spots where barriers were not yet installed, he said.

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Some people still jumped into the net, and crews then helped them out. A handful jumped into the ocean from the net and died, he said. The nets are meant to deter people from jumping and curb the death rate of those who still do, though they will likely be badly injured. "It's stainless-steel wire rope netting, so it's like jumping into a cheese grater," Mulligan said, adding, "We want folks to know that if you come here, it will hurt if you jump." Firefighters are being trained to climb down and rescue anyone in the nets. For now, ironworkers trained in rescue techniques perform many of the rescues. On the deck, members of a bridge patrol work to spot people considering suicide. Last year, they dissuaded 149 people.

(More Golden Gate Bridge stories.)

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