Belfast Telegraph

Councillor issues suicide alert over ‘bridge jumpers’

by Natalie Irvine

A local councillor has appealed for improved fencing to deter the “alarming increase of attempted suicide jumps” off a Newtownabbey bridge.

Alderman Nigel Hamilton has expressed his concern at the number of attempted suicides and jumpers who have used the Hightown Bridge in Glengormley over the past two years.

Alderman Hamilton said: “I have been approached by a number of concerned residents who are anxious at the increased number of attempts made by people to climb up on the railings and jump onto the motorway in a desperate effort to commit suicide.

“I have contacted the Department of Regional Development (DRD) Roads Service to request improved fencing to secure either end of the bridge and make the current railings less like steps which apparently, from eye witness accounts, enable people to climb up over the railings.”

Alderman Hamilton, who sits on the Northern Trust's Suicide Prevention Partnership, explained: “While some are as young as 16, the danger they cause to themselves, passersby who attempt to talk them down, and drivers and passengers in the cars below cause me to shudder when I think of the consequences.

“There have been four attempted jumpers since the bridge has been structurally moved under the considerable motorway and bridge maintenance programme dating back to 2007/8.

“Most of this work began and was completed during my then term as mayor of the borough. I recall well one serious incident with a lady who jumped from the bridge and was seriously hurt after she landed on the motorway.”

He added: “Someone is going to get killed and we have duty to |ensure that does not happen.”

A spokesman for the Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self Harm (PIPS) said: “We have been alerted to what has been happening at this bridge.

“This is everybody’s issue. What is key is partnership working to resolve such safety issues. I know there has been a joined-up approach taken at the Foyle Bridge up at Derry. Lobbying about safety at sites like the Hightown Bridge is very important.”

In response, a DRD spokesperson told the Community Telegraph: “The parapets on Hightown Bridge are designed to contain vehicles and to prevent people from falling onto the motorway below. Roads Service is not aware of any particular issues with the bridge, but would be happy to discuss this matter with Alderman Hamilton.”

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