Tragedy prompts questions about St. Thomas rail bridge safety
A day after two people plunged to their deaths onto a busy St. Thomas roadway, some are questioning whether the landmark rail bridge should come down.
But there is a very different plan for the bridge, converting it to an extended elevated park, and those involved insist public safety will be a priority.
Commuters, those working nearby and emergency responders are still stunned after two people fell from the former Michigan Central Railroad bridge on Monday.
St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson says she feels for all impacted by the deaths, espcially those closest to the victims.
"We know that those families and friends have been affected, but certainly anyone in the area, as well as our first responders. So we need to make sure as a community that we have safeguards in place."
Police will only say there were no suspicious circumstances around Monday afternoon's incident, but there have been about four others who have fallen or jumped to their deaths at the location in the last 20 years.
But there are safeguards in place now, including tightly woven fencing that spans the ends of the trestle, with barbed wire across the top - still for anyone intent on entering a location they'll likely find a way.
Serge Lavoie, president of the Elevated Park Project, says, "We see evidence of people trying to scale the 10 foot fence, cut the barbed wire. They'll do almost anything to get on there."
The Elevated Park Project is working to convert the trestle into a public space - Canada's first elevated park - and Lavoie insists safety will be a priority when the trestle is opened to the public.
He points to other high-profile suicide prevention projects like the one along Toronto's Bloor Street Viaduct, where a project called the Luminous Veil was completed just over a decade ago.
Lavoie says they may borrow from concepts like that, "We have an urban designer now working on our master plan and there'll be a chapter on safety and security. We really wanted to stress that."
While the Bloor Viaduct project did prevent deaths at that location, a 2010 study found that the overall number of suicides by jumping remained the same in Toronto.
That's one reason Jackson says a bigger effort has to be put into suicide prevention.