Updated October 31, 2016:
Wayne Strickland, President-Coronado San Diego Bridge Collaborative For Suicide Prevention, met with Senator Ben Hueso on Friday, October 28, 2016, and he is making it an emergency priority to install a fence or barrier to prevent suicides and prevent more deaths on the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge. This will also prevent bridge closures.
“We are so very happy that this will be done in the not too distant future,” says Strickland. I want to thank those in attendance; Senator Ben Hueso 40th District, Raquel Maden Senior District Representative, Coronado City Council members Carrie Downey and Richard Bailey, Rhonda Haiston-Bridge Collaborative Founder, Robin Privett-Collaborative Secretary and all others that have helped and supported our efforts.”
“Senator Ben Hueso will be putting in for emergency funding and any legislation needed to get the bridge fence or barriers put in place to stop suicides, prevent vehicles from going over the sides, and save lives and it will also help prevent bridge closures. First will be funding the study required to get all necessary planning done, next will be approval and then construction. Hopefully all will be completed before the 50th anniversary of bridge in 2019. We will be checking with Senator Ben Hueso for updates and keep you informed of progress. Thanks to Senator Ben Hueso our TEAM effort has paid off,” says Strickland.
On Friday, October 28, 2016, California State Senator State Senator Ben Hueso plans to meet with Wayne Strickland, President of Coronado San Diego Bridge Collaborative for Suicide Prevention, and other locals, vowing to improve the safety of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge.
“I think Senator Hueso is really fired up,” says Strickland. “Not only to make the area where the truck went over the bridge safer, but to support our effort to put up a fence or net on the bridge. This meeting is a step in the right direction. Something needs to be done and it needs to be done now.”
Strickland, who retired from the Coronado Fire Department after 32 years of service, has taken it upon himself to ensure improvements are made. As a former firefighter, Strickland has seen a lot of tragedy and loss. He hopes, through his continued efforts, to add a suicide barrier to the bridge and that lives will be saved and a difference will be made.
He describes the bridge as a main artery of Coronado. “The bridge shouldn’t be closed over 2,000 times. It affects our military capabilities and affects all of the drivers and all of the people, and all of the emergencies that happen,” says Strickland.
“As a retired firefighter here in Coronado, I’ve seen a lot of emergencies where the fire department has to get in or out off of the bridge. Ambulances have to go back and forth. Lives are affected big time, not just by somebody jumping, or a vehicle accident, but by the bridge closures. A simple fence would fix this. A net is more expensive. I don’t care what they do. I want them to do something,” says Strickland.
The San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge, which is the third tallest bridge in the nation, has been at the center of controversy for years, primarily due to the high suicide rate. Up until two weeks ago, before an alleged drunk driver flipped his vehicle over the side of the structure, killing four individuals and injuring several others, members of the Bridge Collaborative, as well as Coronado city officials, haven’t received much support from Caltrans or state officials. But the recent tragedy has shined a brighter spotlight on the bridge. And, in an effort to increase safety measures, Senator Hueso has made it his mission to see that improvements are made.
“This tragic incident will result in improved safety, for not only the people of this community, but everyone who uses that bridge,” said Hueso during a press conference in Chicano Park.
“Change doesn’t happen on it’s own. People need to get involved,” says Strickland. In order to inflict change, Strickland took over as President of the local initiative, and has helped raise $10,541.00 through donations to the Bridge Collaborative. The money, which has been placed in a private bank account, is for funding a feasibility study, which Caltrans District 11 Director Laurie Berman says is the first task that needs to be completed to determine if proposed modifications would, in fact, resolve the issue.
“Coronado San Diego Bridge Collaborative for Suicide Prevention is trying to get a fence or net on the bridge to stop the 381 suicides from becoming even more,” says Strickland. “We are averaging almost 16 [suicides] a year. It started out with a few a year to now, maybe, one and a half a month, so, it’s got to change.”
According to Strickland, five vehicles have fallen off of the bridge. There have been five deaths as a result of those accidents. Since the structure was built in 1967, 382 individuals have committed suicide by jumping off of the bridge. The most recent incident took place this past weekend.
There have been only three survivors, one woman and her baby and one man, who attempted to end their life by jumping from the bridge. “For every death there are about three attempts. That’s about 1,600 total jumpers,” says Strickland. “It needs to stop, and that’s why we [CSDBCSP] was founded.
“The city of San Diego and city of Coronado have both approved the idea of doing something, but nobody wants to lead. They believe it’s a Caltrans bridge, and it is a Caltrans bridge. So, who do we get to do something about it? Now we have the person who should do something about it, the State Senator. He can make Caltrans do the right thing because they control the purse strings and hopefully get it done.”
With the fiftieth anniversary of the bridge approaching, plans are already underway to add bright lights to the bridge, which some say will draw even more attention to the structure. Many locals strongly disagree with the decision to light up the bridge, and have turned to social media outlets using #LivesBeforeLights in protest.