Seattle Office Routine: Coffee, Email, Watch for Suicidal Jumpers

"I immediately backed my boat over toward him to see whether he was alive or within help," she said. "From a few yards away I concluded that he was dead -- utterly peaceful looking, wearing black, floating with one of his black shoes beside him, face out of the water and not apparently breathing."

She raced her boat back for the ambulance.

Ryan Thurston, a 29-year-old senior design engineer at Impinj has witnessed two jumpers -- one plunging from the bridge and the other in his parking lot. But it is the morning drive under the bridge on his approach to work from 34th Street that frightens him the most.

"Within 10 seconds you are in harm's way of a body falling on your car," Thurston said. "I look through the sunroof and make sure nothing is falling from the sky. That's how bad it is."

The Aurora Bridge is a massive, steel truss structure, 70 feet wide; all but 13 feet of that is roadway. At its high point, the bridge is 155 feet above the water, the height of a 15-story building.

Built in 1931, the Aurora Bridge is a national historic landmark, and therein lies the problem. Area residents say jumpers are drawn to the dramatic vistas and an easily accessible footpath that traverses the entire bridge.

Many suggest building a fence to thwart would-be jumpers, but any such project would need to comply with federal and state preservation laws.

Instead, hoping to reduce then number of jumpers, the city will place call boxes and signs along the bridge by next month at a cost of $35,000. The phones will have two buttons, offering direct connections to 911 and to a suicide prevention line.

A larger number of signs along the length of the bridge will display the full number for the 24-hour crisis line.

Gregg Hirakawa, spokesman for the city's Department of Transportation, explains that the call boxes will make it as easy as possible to speak to a counselor, while the signs will help an individual make a more discreet call from a personal cell phone.

Stan Suchan, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation, adds that other preventive measures are planned as the efficacy of the phones and signs is judged.

But he cautions that fencing, barriers, or nets would be a much more complicated and expensive proposition.

The city's plan is laughable, say Impinj employees.

"It's kind of like poking at it with a stick, given the long history of the bridge," Troy Gilliland said.

In the meantime, the employees who have front row seats to the suicides plan to band together and pressure for action.

"We are all very concerned about the physical and psychological safety of our employees," said Jim Donaldson, communications director for Impinj, who wants to work collectively with the other companies to find solutions."I really don't think anyone should have to witness what we saw."

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