Flowers lean against the rail of the east Eighth Street bridge from which a Port Angeles High School student jumped to her death Monday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Flowers lean against the rail of the east Eighth Street bridge from which a Port Angeles High School student jumped to her death Monday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles high school student dies following jump from bridge

PORT ANGELES — A 15-year-old Port Angeles High School sophomore jumped to her death at about 8 a.m. Monday from the Eighth Street bridge over Valley Creek.

Ashley Ann Wishart was the seventh person to jump from one of the two, 100-foot tall Eighth Street bridges since they opened in February, 2009, and the third person since June 4.

Officer Brian Stamon said initial reports indicated three people who saw a female leaning on the south-facing railing parked their vehicles and ran toward her to prevent her from jumping.

She leaped from the middle of the span — near a Peninsula Behavior Health crisis-counseling sign — before they could get to her, Stamon said, adding the suicide was reported to 9-1-1 at 8:07 a.m. Monday.

The bridges have 4-foot, 6-inch railings.

Her father, Richard Wishart, 45, confirmed Monday afternoon that Ashley Wishart was the person who leaped from the bridge.

Police and school officials would not confirm Ashley Wishart’s identity, citing privacy laws protecting juveniles.

“I’m so confused,” Richard, a journeyman carpenter, said.

“We were doing practicing, getting her ready for her [driver’s] license.

“She had a lot of goals she was looking forward to.

“She had a kind heart, for sure.”

Lots of people knew Ashley Wishart, her father said.

He recalled attending a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at the high school when his daughter’s name was announced for winning an essay award.

“The gym erupted,” her father said, haltingly.

“We don’t know all the reasons why she done what she done, because she was so strong-willed and kept her poker face on.

“She didn’t want to hurt other people with her problems.”

Stamon stood on the bridge at about 8:25 a.m. Monday while authorities processed the area below the span near where Wishart was covered with a white sheet.

Stamon recalled how motorists tried to help a female who at first was standing at the bridge railing, then climbed over and perched on the other side, unprotected.

“We had a couple callers saying there was someone at the bridge, just looking over,” he said.

“She was there for a little bit.

“Then we got a second caller saying she was actually on the edge.”

“Someone just jumped off the bridge,” the police department’s electronic call-for-service log said at 8:07 a.m. Monday.

The new Eighth Street bridges were opened Feb. 24, 2009, as part of a $24.6 million project.

Four people leaped to their deaths from the bridges in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2015, and now three in 2017:

The other six were:

• A 19-year-old man, Valley Creek Gorge bridge, April 2009

• A 20-year-old woman, Tumwater Truck Route bridge, July 2012

• A 21-year-old woman, Valley Creek Gorge bridge, October 2014

• A 76-year-old woman, Tumwater Truck Route bridge, March 2015

• A 49-year-old man, Tumwater Truck Route bridge, June 8

• A 31-year-old man, Tumwater Truck Route bridge, Oct. 4.

“A 4-foot railing is stupid,” Richard Wishart said, vowing to attend a vigil at the bridges Monday night.

“If I can stop one death from that bridge with my daughter’s death, then she didn’t die for no reason.

“If this is the tipping point, then she didn’t die in vain.

“This has got to stop.

“People are dying, and people aren’t doing anything about it.”

The two bridges replaced spans built in 1936 that had 4-foot, 2-inch railings until 1959, when 7-foot, 8-inch railings were installed.

Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd said she would give an update at the Nov. 21 City Council meeting on her efforts to procure state funding to add suicide barriers to the bridges.

They are estimated to cost $900,000, an option the City Council has rejected as too expensive over the past few years and in 2007, when the council decided on the bridge design, said Kidd, who was not on the council then.

“There are a lot of safety issues we have to address here that we need to take care of,” Kidd said Monday.

“I really need letters and emails of support from the community so we can make this work together with our legislators, so we can get help.

“I am asking people who are as broken-hearted as I am to take care of these issues on our bridges,” she said.

Patsene Dashiell, spokeswoman for the Port Angeles School District, said counselors from throughout the district were sent to the high school Monday to help distraught students.

The district’s crisis response team also was activated, “so that these people are ready to lend a hand,” she said.

The high school has an enrollment of 1,100 students, including those in the Running Start program, principal Jeff Clark said Monday.

With digital media, the news of Wishart’s death “was instantaneous,” Clark said.

He said students were “mostly doing OK” by mid-day Monday while processing the loss of one of their own.

“It’s kind of a pensive mood overall, is how I would describe it, over the whole building.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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