Arizona family mourns Hoover bypass bridge suicide

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LAS VEGAS (AP) - Relatives of a 42-year-old Phoenix woman who jumped to her death from the Hoover Dam bypass bridge are calling for stronger safety measures to deter suicides at the span 30 miles east of Las Vegas.

Heather Price Papayoti’s sister-in-law, Maria Papayoti, said in a statement that family members want to avoid “future tragic occurrences” at the O’Callaghan-Tillman Memorial Bridge, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Friday. (http://bit.ly/1b7Y2kb )

Heather Price Papayoti left a Jan. 10 counseling meeting in Tempe, Ariz., and took a taxi some 280 miles to the bridge on the Arizona-Nevada state line, where the newspaper said a Boulder City woman snapped a photo of Papayoti moments before she apparently climbed over a railing and plunged almost 900 feet to the Colorado River.

“Sadly the darkness of depression and anxiety consumed her in recent months and despite treatment, she was unable to conquer it,” the family statement said.

Francesca Bosco said the woman she photographed left a purse and a jacket inside the cab and disappeared just before 5 p.m. Papayoti’s body was discovered in the river several hours later.

It was the seventh suicide since the bridge opened in October 2010, the newspaper said.

Methods to discourage suicides were discussed when the bridge was being built, said Mary Martini, district engineer for the Nevada Department of Transportation.

A sidewalk wasn’t part of the original design, but engineers added one amid fears that motorists would create a traffic hazard stopping vehicles on the bridge to see the view.

The walkway has no suicide-prevention signs or telephones, such as those at the Golden Gate Bridge near San Francisco.

Guardrails are higher than on other bridges in Nevada, Martini said, but officials thought a net below or transparent plastic shields above the 5-foot railing would be too costly and would mar the view of Hoover Dam and the Colorado River below.

“I don’t think we could engineer enough ways to prevent somebody from committing suicide off the bridge,” Martini said. “If somebody is determined to do it, then they are going to do it.”

Rose Davis, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said Hoover Dam police don’t patrol the bridge, which carries traffic on U.S. 93 between Las Vegas and Phoenix.

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Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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