No bridge deaths since barrier erected

The multimillion-rand pedestrian barrier along the notorious Van Stadens “bridge of death” has paid off, with no further suicides at the infamous overpass since it was erected nearly two years ago.

The R10-million barrier, which prevents people from scaling the bridge’s railings and ultimately plunging to their death, reduced the number of suicides from an average of six a year at the time, to zero.

The 2.7m-high and 198m-long steel mesh structure stands like an open dome on either side of the N2 above the scenic 140m-high bridge, where about 87 lives have been lost since it was opened in 1971.

Construction of the barrier came about in April 2013, after repeated calls – spearheaded by the Friends of the Van Stadens Bridge Trust – were heeded by the SA National Roads Authority Limited (Sanral) for a structure to curb deaths at the bridge.

Sanral chief executive Nazir Alli met members of the trust last month to check on the barrier and review statistics on suicides and attempted suicides.

Revive (formerly LifeLine) head Susan Potgieter, who was a trustee on FOVSBT, said that since the barrier had been up they had been monitoring Van Stadens Bridge as well as surrounding bridges.

“We monitored surrounding bridges to make sure the barrier didn’t see people merely moving on to other bridges. Van Stadens really was the suicide bridge and seeing that cut down completely is beyond amazing.”

Suicides at the bridge started just 12 days after it was opened, with a woman from Uitenhage reportedly being the first person to plunge to her death.

The trust has now been dissolved.

-Zandile Mbabela

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