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Upgrades On George Washington Bridge Aimed At Preventing Suicides

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Life-saving upgrades are underway at the George Washington Bridge, where at least 75 people have jumped to their deaths since 2013.

As CBS2’s Jessica Moore reported, only half the bridge — which was the scene of another suicide on Wednesday morning — will be protected.

“There’s a lot more suicides than people know about,” Maureen Bangel said.

In February, the upper level of the bridge came to a standstill as crews successfully convinced a dangling man to climb back over the railing.

“It’s a problem. They were getting three a week, so if it stops one person it’s worth it,” Mike Derewianyk said.

The ‘it’ is suicide prevention netting that’s being installed on the upper deck. It’s going in ahead of a permanent 11-ft tall suicide prevention fence in the future.

The netting only covers the bridge’s upper level, leaving the lower level vulnerable. Wednesday morning’s jumper ditched his car there and jumped.

The Port Authority defended prioritizing the upper level by saying, “that’s where most of the problems have occurred in the past.”

The netting also outfits bridges in Seattle and San Francisco where early reports suggest it’s working.

“There’s absolutely research that suggests if you erect bridge barriers it does decrease the rate of suicide and the likelihood that an individual will take their own life by jumping off a bridge,” said Joanne Harpel, president of Coping After Suicide.

Harpel said the bridge barriers work because they cut off access to a person’s preferred method of taking his life.

“It is very uncommon for them to seek out an alternative substitute means. So what the barrier does is it makes it much less likely that the person is going to try to kill themselves by any means,” she said.

The netting is going to change the view, but hopefully save lives in the beautiful but dangerous place.

The temporary netting is the first step in the Port Authority’s $1.9-billion ‘Restore The George’ restoration of the bridge.

The steel fence is expected to be completed by 2024.

 

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