EDITORIAL: Bypass bridge suicides

In the late afternoon of Jan. 10, Heather Price Papayoti of Phoenix became the seventh person to commit suicide at the Hoover Dam bypass bridge, falling 900 feet to the Colorado River below.

As reported last week by the Review-Journal’s Tom Ragan, Ms. Papayoti’s family wants more security at the O’Callaghan-Tillman Memorial Bridge. They say additional measures, such as even higher barriers, would prevent future suicides there.

As tragic as such events are, more safety won’t necessarily prevent more suicides.

Those who commit suicide, regardless of when, where or how, go to great lengths to do so. Mr. Ragan noted that Ms. Papayoti took extraordinary steps, leaving a behavioral counseling meeting in Tempe, Ariz., that day and taking a cab more than 280 miles to the Nevada border. The cabdriver parked in a no-parking zone on the bridge, and Ms. Papayoti then had to climb over a 5½-foot concrete wall — higher than the railing on the pedestrian walkway from which she jumped.

This degree of desperation and determination is terribly sad. However, short of providing multiple security guards 24 hours per day, it’s debatable whether any upgrade to the bridge’s barriers would prevent suicides or merely force a few distraught individuals to choose a different way to end their lives.

Ms. Papayoti’s grieving family members are admirably trying to spare others from such sorrow. But even if untold sums of money were spent on the 3-year-old bypass bridge, it would come with no guarantees. Government can’t always save us from ourselves.


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