Couple pushes for barrier on Vista Bridge to prevent suicides - KPTV - FOX 12

Couple pushes for barrier on Vista Bridge to prevent suicides

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Suicide is a topic that's rarely talked about, but a local couple says it's time to do something to stop it.

Kenneth and Bonnie Kahn have offices that are located below the Vista Bridge in southwest Portland. They witness about one suicide per year, they said.

Portland police confirmed a man, 40, jumped to his death from the notorious bridge about 2:20 a.m. Monday.

In an effort to reduce the number of suicide and suicide attempts each year, the Kahns are trying to rally support for some type of barrier to be installed on the bridge.

"As majestic as the bridge is, the darker side of it is it's a killing machine," Kenneth Kahn said. "People end their lives here."

During the eight years that Kenneth Kahn's office has been located below the Vista Bridge, he's had to relive the nightmare of hearing someone commit suicide off the Vista Bridge or seen its aftermath more than a half-dozen times, he said.

"It's unmistakable when you hear it," he said. "There's no need to verify what it is. You know what it is."

After a young woman apparently jumped to her death several months ago, Kenneth Kahn and his wife decided something more needed to be done to prevent future tragedies, he said. They saw photos of a historic bridge in Madrid, Spain, where transparent screens were put up to prevent suicide attempts there, he added. Kenneth Kahn wondered if the idea could be brought here.

"Obviously, there's a historic nature of the bridge that must be preserved," Kenneth Kahn said. "And there's an aesthetic value that has to be continued. But those interests have to be outweighed by the necessity of preventing suicides from this bridge."

Kenneth Kahn is now in the early stages of forming a nonprofit organization called Friends of the Vista Bridge in an effort to raise money to build some type of barrier on the Vista Bridge, he said. The group already has a Facebook page. A website is also in the works, he added.

The hope is to eventually raise about $5 million, Kenneth Kahn said.

"I think that it's going to happen." he said. "For me, it can't happen soon enough. But I know because of the competing interests that are involved here that it's going to take time."

Whether it's a glass wall, a screen or some other type of barrier, Kenneth Kahn told FOX 12 that something is needed to stop the tragedies that many have seen around the Vista Bridge firsthand, he said.

The Oregon State Historic Preservation Office must approve any changes that would affect the appearance of the Vista Bridge, he said.

Kenneth Kahn hopes to have something in place within the next five years, he said.

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