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Grieving family members plead for suicide barrier on Coronado Bridge

SAN DIEGO -- Heartbroken family members shared their stories of loss Thursday evening in the hopes of getting a suicide prevention barrier built on the Coronado Bridge.

At a public meeting hosted by Caltrans, several people publicly told their stories about the most difficult loss in their lives for the first time.

The picturesque bridge is a reminder of heartbreak for hundreds of families. Since it first opened in 1969, more than 400 people have ended their lives by jumping from the span.

“We can’t keep letting people have such easy access to a means to kill themself,” Chuck Leek said through tears.

Leek is one of many fighting to get some type of suicide-prevention barrier on the Coronado bridge. His 23-year-old son, Christopher, jumped to his death on October 25, 2016.

“If this had been done prior to last October 25th, my son would probably still be here,” Leek said.“I believe that if anything had caused him any kind of pause that he would not have done this -- that it was an irrational spur-of-the-moment decision,” Leek said.

Alan Portillo had a similar story. His son Adam used the bridge to end his life at age 19.

“I can’t describe how much it hurts, and still does even six years later, and it’s a pain that will only go away when I’m dead,” Portillo said.

Both men shared their painful stories Thursday night at a public meeting held by the California Department of Transportation. The agency is considering possible ways to prevent people from jumping.

“It’s time to stop ignoring a problem that has resulted in the deaths of more than 400 people,” Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey said.

Cayce Jones nearly added to the number two years ago when she came inches from jumping.

“Luckily somebody stopped. There was a woman that stopped and she asked me, 'What do you need me to do?'” Jones said.

That woman prevented Jones from following through with her plan to end her life, she said.

Advocates of a bridge suicide barrier believe that it would give those contemplating jumping more time to reconsider what they are doing and give others a chance to talk them down. Those with a personal story to share asked opponents to reconsider.

“If they’re thinking that prevention is a bad idea because of the cost or the appearance, then maybe just put yourself in my shoes for a second and think of how you would feel if your son was not here with you anymore,” Leek said.

Opponents of a suicide barrier argue the project would be too expensive and people would find another bridge to jump from.

Caltrans officials say they are in very beginning stages of considering a suicide prevention project. After its study and public discussions, it could take several years of planning before construction could start.