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New warning signs at bridge plagued by suicides

June 21, 2013|By Joe Piasecki

Hoping to dissuade despondent people from leaping to their deaths from the Colorado Street Bridge, Pasadena officials plan to install signs that encourage those considering suicide to instead call for help.

City workers will install two 12- by 18-inch metal signs at each end of the storied century-old bridge sometime over the next two months, Assistant City Manager Steve Mermell said.

Proposed designs display the number of a suicide prevention hotline and messages such as “Life is worth living” and “There is hope” against a background image of the bridge on a sunny day.

“If we can save even one life with one reasonable step we can take, we should,” said Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison, one for four elected city leaders to endorse the signs during a public meeting on Monday.

The decision marks the first time in decades that Pasadena — a city where enthusiasm for historic preservation borders on religious fervor — has taken action that acknowledges the dark and deadly legacy of one of its most celebrated architectural icons.

More than 100 people have ended their lives by jumping from the Colorado Street Bridge, which at its highest point rises to 148.5 feet.

According to a historical Los Angeles Times archive, the first person to commit suicide did so on May 28, 1915, followed by another 10 days later. The 25th person died in March 1929, months before the stock market crash launched the Great Depression and accelerated the rate of suicides at the bridge — with 45 logged as of September 1933, 65 as of March 1935, and 89 as of June 1937.

Though reports of fatalities continued, Pasadena police tallied bridge deaths at 91 in a 1974 article in The Times, and a report commissioned by the city in 1988 set the total at 96.

Since 2006, 13 people have jumped to their deaths from the bridge, including two women this year, Pasadena Police Chief Philip Sanchez said.

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