Man survives jump from campus bridge

The incident is the fifth suicide attempt since the school year began.

by Vadim Lavrusik

A 29-year-old man threw his cell phone at a police officer before hurling himself off the pedestrian level of the Washington Avenue Bridge in a suicide attempt the Saturday after classes let out for spring break.

The man, whose name has not been released, survived the fall, according to the University police report. His injuries and condition were unknown by University police.

University Police Chief Greg Hestness said a relative of the victim called police, and University Police Sgt. Jo Anne Benson responded to the call around 11:30 a.m.

The relative who phoned in was on the bridge with the man, Benson said.

Benson yelled out to the man, she said, but he said nothing and threw his cell phone at her, dashed toward the bridge railing and jumped over.

After the man landed in the water, Benson and the relative instructed him to roll on his back and swim toward shore.

Benson said two other officers hiked to the shoreline and threw out a buoy line to the man and were able to hoist him onto shore. Minneapolis Fire and rescue crews, and Hennepin County Medical Center paramedics arrived shortly after and took over the patient care.

Benson said she didn’t know what the man’s injuries were, but knew that he suffered hypothermia from the cold Mississippi water.

Suicides and bridges

This is the third suicide attempt off the bridge that the University police weekend shift officers have responded to since August, Benson said. All three survived the fall.

“We’ve done this before,” she said.

Washington Avenue Bridge isn’t the only place that draws suicide attempts, she said. Attempts are common on any bridge along the Mississippi River.

Hestness said in addition to the three that occurred on weekends, there were two others involving Somali women who both died from injuries caused by the fall, bringing the number of jumps to five for the school year.

But Hestness, who was out of the office, said he didn’t know the exact number, only that it’s not less than five, which seems above average.

“There is something about the bridge at the University that kind of attracts people,” he said.

Hestness said a friend he went to high school and college with committed suicide off the bridge years ago.

Possible solution

The Department of Central Security is in the process of installing cameras on the bridge, which may help prevent such attempts, Hestness said.

There will be six total cameras that cover the whole distance inside and outside the walkways and will be monitored by Central Security staff, he said.

“Of all the places we do have surveillance cameras, we don’t have any on the bridge,” he said. “We could use the cameras to respond to things in progress and send someone out.”

The new cameras will help prevent other crime – such as theft – that occurs on the bridge as well, he said.