Is reason behind “Suicide by Bridge” similar to that of climbing Mt. Everest?

The old retort as to why does one climb a mountain — “Because it’s there” — may answer a few questions as to human behavior such as that of suicide.

George Mallory was among the climbers during the first three British explorations of Mt. Everest. He was found 75 years after his last and fatal try. Some might ask if one who attempts such a feat has a death wish. Who knows what lurks way down in the recesses of thought. Those who have made the trek to Everett successfully may often appear, at least, to have a zest for living.

Such a dark subject often surfaces in certain communities when someone takes a suicidal leap nearby or if the leaper was a prominent person. The last describes the death ruled by authorities as suicide of Tony Scott. The director who was known for such movies as “Top Gun” and “Beverly Hills Cop II” died after jumping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge. The structure, which spans Los Angeles Harbor, is the fourth longest California bridge. Oddly enough a witness saw Scott ascending the cables in a “determined” fashion, which indeed raises some added mystery in the 68-year-old’s death since he was a known rock climber.

This “suicide by bridge” method of killing oneself  fascinated me for a number of years. Part of the reason is that I have a strange attraction to bridges, that after suffering in my younger years with a fear of heights. I suppose I also have somewhat of  a morbid curiosity. My familiarity with the Vincent Thomas Bridge also piqued my interest in this particular case although I was familiar only with one or two of the director’s films.

I traversed the Thomas, an aqua green suspension bridge, almost daily for the first two months of my life as a sailor on board a Navy ship. My ship was like a fish out of water, pardon the pun, as it was dry-docked in Todd Shipyards on the western end of the bridge in San Pedro, Calif. Nearby and quite visible was a terminal for boats headed for Santa Catalina Island as well as cruise ships such as the Pacific Princess, a.k.a., TV’s “Love Boat” during the time.

The Veterans Memorial Bridge, completed in 1990, runs parallel to the historic Rainbow Bridge over the Neches River and Sabine-Neches waterway. With a 143-foot vertical height — almost 35 feet shorter than its neighbor — it was the first cable stay bridge built in Texas. Photos by Aren Cambre courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

While in the yards we worked four 10-hour days each week and enjoyed a 3-day weekend off to explore LA, Hollywood and beyond provided we didn’t have duty. And duty was the only day we slept on the ship. We drove, those of us with cars like myself, after knocking off to what was back then Naval Station Long Beach on the eastern side of the bridge.

It was an interesting experience driving across the Vincent Thomas, as one could see the bustling industrial economy of Southern California from a birds-eye view. One morning I drove across it going to work and found one of the lanes blocked off. At the top, I discovered the closure was because of filming the 70s TV show “Barnaby Jones,” which starred Buddy Ebsen. Over many years I have recognized the bridge in numbers of film and TV episodes.

Here in Southeast Texas are found a pair of twin bridges that seems to attract suicidal people from time to time. Such structures even have a rather unflattering nickname as “Suicide Bridges.” I have no idea and have not found any data to show how many people have met their deaths from jumping off the almost 75-year-old Rainbow Bridge and its younger adjacent Veterans Memorial Bridge. Needless to say, it is not totally uncommon to hear of those who will just stop their cars on top of the bridge and leap to their deaths.

I am sure I would get an argument from folks debating the reasons and justifications or unjustification of taking one’s own life. And while interesting wondering the reason why one chooses a so-called “landmark bridge” to take a final Swan dive off, certain studies explain  the reason for jumping off those bridge could be as simple as why a mountaineer climbs a mountain. Yes, friends, because it is there.

Studies examining the effectiveness of barriers on bridges to prevent jumpers have failed to find a correlation between preventing suicide on a particular bridge and lowering a community’s suicide rate altogether. These studies looked at such possibilities as the therapeutic qualities such a structure holds to a belief that diving off into water from a high bridge wouldn’t hurt. Obviously, such attempts are not always well thought out and are thus spur-of-the-moment acts.

As social science many times finds, the answer to the most puzzling questions are often the most simple or trite answers lying around for the rest of us lazy researchers to uncover.

Note: This blog is in dire need of donations. Actually, I am. If you want an explanation, send me an e-mail. Otherwise trust me. Things are as tight at the moment as they have been in years. Hit that Donate button and help out if you can. I thank you and my blog-typing-fingers thanks you.

If you have found a spelling error, please, notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.