PORT ANGELES — Every night since Monday morning, when 15-year-old Ashley Wishart flung herself off the Valley Creek bridge, Siouxzie Hinton has joined other residents in standing in silent vigil and protest near where the Port Angeles High School sophomore took her own life.
Hinton, husband Thomas and others interviewed on the bridge last week said they want the city to build suicide-prevention fences, barriers — anything higher than the 4-foot, 6-inch railing they stand beside in the cold night.
They have held up signs urging kindness to others — and stronger action on bridge safety measures by a heretofore reluctant City Council.
Many drivers honk and wave, while others have thrown coffee cups and made obscene gestures at Hinton and her companions, Hinton said.
Hinton is urging residents who are concerned about how easy it is for people to commit suicide off the Valley Creek and equally tall Tumwater Truck Route bridge just three blocks west to speak their minds during public comment sessions at a City Council meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd will give an update on efforts to obtain state funding for suicide-prevention measures on the bridges.
Witnesses told police Wishart sat perched on the railing, above the 100-foot abyss, before she fell backward to the road below at about 8 a.m. Monday, according to a police report.
Motorists who had stopped to keep her from falling from the bridge could not reach her in time, according to police.
Hinton, 44, lives in a Victorian-style house at the eastern end of the Valley Creek bridge.
In her quest to keep another suicide from occurring there, she has started a Facebook page, “Save a Life, Change the View,” also written on a sign she held last week.
“This is a meeting place to share our plans of healing and addressing issues that lead to suicide in our community,” she said Friday on the Facebook page.
The name of the page is a plea, and a reference, to critics of suicide fences who want to keep an unobstructed, clear view of Port Angeles Harbor to the north, the last thing Wishart saw before she plunged to her death.
Critics of barriers point to the estimated $800,000 to $1.2 million cost of installing fences or higher railings, which the City Council has cited in rejecting previous calls for adding fences to the bridges.
Public Works Director Craig Fulton said Thursday he is getting updated information.
“I’ve asked my city engineers to get a little more detail on how the fencing can be installed on the abutments so we don’t damage the structural integrity of the structure,” Fulton said.
“I need to get more definitive costs that we can provide to the state for any state funding.”
Critics also have said people who want to commit suicide will find a way, suicide-prevention measures or not.
Hinton says better mental health services are part of the equation for helping people with mental issues before they take their own lives.
She wants to cut off what she believes is the easy avenue that the low railings at the bridges offer to people who want to harm themselves.
Seven people have jumped off the two spans since they were built in February 2009, including, as of Monday, three since June.
“We need this to stop,” Hinton said Wednesday night, shivering a foot from the bridge railing.
“I understand the pain.
“It’s just too easy, it’s too simple, it’s just an easy out and it’s too conveniently in that spur-of-the-moment of walking past.”
The railings “are way too low, way too low,” Hinton said.
If the barriers were higher, at least someone could grab somebody by the leg who was trying to jump, she said.
“That’s all they need is a few minutes more,” she said.
On Thursday night, Hinton stood on the bridge in the rain with a sign, “I AM HERE FOR YOU.”
A few feet away stood 17-year-old Maariyah Dugan, a Port Angeles High School junior, holding a sign that said “KINDNESS MATTERS.”
“I know there are a lot of people who are not that kind,” Maariyah said.
Maariyah said she has friends who were “really close” to Wishart.
“They know she was bullied,” Maariyah said. The sister of a close friend of Wishart’s and the mother of another close friend agreed.
Neither the principal at Wishart’s school nor her father was aware of any bullying, they have said.
“My friends tried helping her, but it didn’t work,” Maariyah said.
Tiffany Jenks, 34, shivered Wednesday in the cold on the bridge while she worked on a sign.
Her husband, Eric, committed suicide by hanging himself in Seattle in 2014.
“That’s what brought me to Port Angeles: a new start,” Jenks said.
“A stand needs to be taken on mental illness, and something needs to be done about these bridges.”
Amy Wishart’s father, Richard, said he will attend Tuesday’s City Council meeting to urge that barriers be added to the bridges.
“The bridges need fences, and I’m not going to rest until they have them,” he said. “There’s no life you can put a dollar on.
“The City Council is just rotten. There’s no amount of money at all whatsoever that they should have spared to save a life.”
Police reports document suicide threats that are not carried out.
Totals were not available Friday on those numbers for 2017, but a man said he planned to do exactly that shortly before noon Thursday, Deputy Chief Jason Viada said Friday.
Viada said the man said he was going to jump off one of the bridges or leap off the more-than-100-foot cliff at the west end of West 10th Street known locally as “The End of the World.”
The body of Amy L. Lingvall, 54, was found June 29, 2015, on the beach below the cliff, bearing no signs of foul play, police said.
She had been reported missing and emotionally “in crisis,” according to police reports.
The man who threatened suicide Thursday was detained after he drove by an officer who was stationed near the guardrail barrier blocking that same overlook, Deputy Police Chief Jason Viada said.
The man was transported to Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles for further evaluation.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].