SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — It is one of the most beautiful and beloved structures on earth, but it also has a well-known dark side. Every year an average of 30 people take their own lives by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge.
“Kyle jumped off the Golden Gate bridge on Friday, September 20, 2013, at 11:45 a.m.,” said Kymberlyrenee Gamboa, who was among a collection of surviving parents and siblings who helped deliver the public’s first look at a project that has been talked about for generations.
Gamboa says the loss of her son Kyle turned into a journey with similar parents, fighting for the long-debated barrier. “The devastation and heartbreak is forever,” she said. “It will always be with us.”
A 300-foot-long portion a suicide prevention net – one that will eventually stretch 1.7 miles on either side of the Golden Gate Bridge – was unveiled in a Richmond yard Thursday.
The net itself is made of marine-grade stainless steel. From 20 feet above, it would be a painful and likely destructive fall, but entirely survivable.
“They will probably break a bone or two, but they will live to see another day,” said Dennis Mulligan, General Manager of the Golden Gate Bridge District. “Ninety percent of all people who are unsuccessful in a suicide attempt never go on to try to again.”
The work to install the barrier is already underway, and can be seen unfolding below the highway deck. For the family members who pushed for this barrier, Thursday was their first chance to see what so many fought so hard for.
“A lot of the people before me did all the hard things,” said Gamboa. “When they went to the board, when the board wasn’t very receptive, when the public wasn’t very receptive.”
Another mother who lost a son, Dayna Whitmer, also credited the efforts of survivors.
“It’s only since a lot of the families started going in there over the past 15, 20 years, going to the bridge board to remind them that they’re there to keep the public safe, Whitmer said. “You know, you can have a beautiful bridge, but you need to save people, too.”
When completed, this will be the largest bridge net system in the world; nothing quite like it has ever been built. Finishing it, will take another year and a half.
“It’s remarkable that they can build something like this,” said Whitmer, walking beneath the wire netting. “It’s very reassuring to know that it’s going to stop people from dying on that bridge.”