A 59-year-old Santa Paula woman jumped to her death from the Cold Spring Bridge early Thursday morning with the aid of two walking canes, after using a stool to hoist herself over the railing. This brings the number of people who’ve leapt to their deaths from the bridge this year to five; she was the 49th since the bridge was built in 1964. Sheriff Bill Brown has been a strong supporter of controversial plans to erect a suicide barrier fence along the bridge. Critics of the plan contend it constitutes a waste of money and that suicidal people will find a way to kill themselves regardless. They contend the money could be better spent on suicide prevention and mental health programs. (Technically, that’s not an option because the money for the fence erection comes from Caltrans.)
Because of the woman’s physical limitations, sheriff’s officials are confident that she could not have jumped from the bridge had the barrier fence been in place. A study of bridge jumpers undertaken by the Sheriff’s Department last year indicated they represent a genuine cross section of the entire county, with all ages, genders, ethnicities, and demographic subsets represented. Countywide, there have been 37 suicides this year. Last year there were 34, the year before that 25, and the year before that 48.