Man leaps to death from Oregon’s ‘Suicide Bridge’

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PORTLAND — A volunteer trying to prevent deaths at a Portland span long known as the “Suicide Bridge” pleaded with a man Monday morning, but couldn’t talk him out of leaping to his death.

It was the fifth death this year at the Vista Bridge, where city workers have begun to put up barriers to prevent suicides. That work isn’t expected to be done until next week, The Oregonian reported.

In the meantime, volunteers wearing orange vests and trained in suicide prevention are patrolling the bridge.

Ken Kahn, a lawyer whose office is below the bridge, said the volunteer saw a man arrive in an SUV about 6 a.m. and hurry to the center of the bridge.

“He was agitated and pacing,” Kahn said. “The volunteer tried to engage him and he told her to stay away. She said, ‘Don’t do this. Let’s talk.”‘

The man then threw a leg over the railing and jumped, landing near light-rail tracks.

The volunteer was distraught, and spoke for half an hour with counselors from a nonprofit organization helping those who are emotionally traumatized in emergency situations, Kahn said.

“She did what she was trained to do,” he said. “It’s absolutely heartbreaking.”

The 9-foot screens that workers continued to erect Monday are intended as a temporary measure while the city tries to figure out how to put up a permanent barrier appropriate to the structure on the National Register of Historic Places. Estimates have put the cost at $2.5 million.